Fundamental GABAergic amacrine cell circuitries in the retina: nested feedback, concatenated inhibition, and axosomatic synapses

J Comp Neurol. 2000 Oct 2;425(4):560-82. doi: 10.1002/1096-9861(20001002)425:4<560::aid-cne7>;2-d.


Presynaptic gamma-aminobutyrate-immunoreactive (GABA+) profiles were mapped in the cyprinid retina with overlay microscopy: a fusion of electron and optical imaging affording high-contrast ultrastructural and immunocytochemical visualization. GABA+ synapses, deriving primarily from amacrine cells (ACs), compose 92% of conventional synapses and 98% of the input to bipolar cells (BCs) in the inner plexiform layer. GABA+ AC synapses, the sign-inverting elements of signal processing, are deployed in micronetworks and distinctive synaptic source/target topologies. Nested feedback micronetworks are formed by three types of links (BC --> AC, reciprocal BC <-- AC, and AC --> AC synapses) arranged as nested BC<--> [AC --> AC] loops. Circuits using nested feedback can possess better temporal performance than those using simple reciprocal feedback loops. Concatenated GABA+ micronetworks of AC --> AC and AC --> AC --> AC chains are common and must be key elements for lateral spatial, temporal, and spectral signal processing. Concatenated inhibitions may represent exceptionally stable, low-gain, sign-conserving devices for receptive field construction. Some chain elements are GABA immunonegative (GABA-) and are, thus, likely glycinergic synapses. GABA+ synaptic baskets target the somas of certain GABA+ and GABA- cells, resembling cortical axosomatic synapses. Finally, all myelinated intraretinal profiles are GABA+, suggesting that some efferent systems are sources of GABAergic inhibition in the cyprinid retina and may comprise all axosomatic synapses. These micronetworks are likely the fundamental elements for receptive field shaping in the inner plexiform layer, although few receptive field models incorporate them as functional components. Conversely, simple feedback and feedforward synapses may often be chimeras: the result of an incomplete view of synaptic topology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feedback
  • Goldfish / physiology*
  • Nerve Endings / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid