A series of biotinylated tracers distinguishes three types of gap junction in retina

J Neurosci. 2000 Nov 15;20(22):8629-36. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-22-08629.2000.


Gap junctions serve many important roles in various tissues, but their abundance and diversity in neurons is only beginning to be understood. The tracer Neurobiotin has revealed many different networks interconnected by gap junctions in retina. We compared the relative permeabilities of five different retinal gap junctions by measuring their permeabilities to a series of structurally related tracers. When large tracers were injected, the staining of coupled cells fell off more rapidly in some networks than others relative to Neurobiotin controls. Three distinctly different permeability profiles were found, suggesting that multiple neuronal connexin types were present. The most permeant to large molecules were gap junctions from A-type horizontal cells. The permeability of gap junctions of two types of amacrine cell were not distinguishable from those from B-type horizontal cells. The lowest permeability was found for gap junctions between cone bipolar cells and the AII amacrine cells to which they are coupled. Because only a single neural connexin type has been identified in retina, our results suggest more types remain to be found. To determine whether the unitary permeability of channels is altered by channel modulators, we reduced permeability with octanol and a cAMP analog. Although net permeability was substantially diminished, the proportion by which it declined was constant across tracer size. This suggests that these agents act only to close channels rather than alter individual channel permeabilities. This tracer series can therefore be used to contrast permeability properties of gap junctions in intact circuits, even at the level of individual channels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Biotin / metabolism
  • Biotinylation*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Gap Junctions / classification*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Indoles
  • Iontophoresis
  • Microinjections
  • Nerve Net / metabolism
  • Nerve Net / ultrastructure
  • Octanols / pharmacology
  • Permeability
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retina / ultrastructure*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Streptavidin / analogs & derivatives
  • Streptavidin / metabolism


  • Benzimidazoles
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Indoles
  • Octanols
  • neurobiotin
  • DAPI
  • Biotin
  • nuclear yellow
  • Streptavidin