Effects of nitric oxide on horizontal cells in the rabbit retina

Vis Neurosci. 2000 Sep-Oct;17(5):799-811. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800175133.


Retinal horizontal cells display large receptive fields as a result of extensive electrical coupling via gap junctions. There is abundant evidence that these gap junctions are dynamically regulated by changes in the adaptational state of the retina. The neuromodulator dopamine appears to play a major role in regulating gap junctional conductances of horizontal cells. Emerging evidence indicates that nitric oxide (NO) also acts as a neuromodulator in the retina and, more specifically, regulates the coupling between horizontal cells. In the present study, we examined the effects of a nitric oxide, and its secondary messenger cGMP, on electrical and tracer coupling between A-type and between B-type horizontal cells in the rabbit retina. Application of the NO donors S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP) or sodium nitroprusside (SNP) significantly reduced the coupling between horizontal cells as evidenced by a decrease in their space constants, annulus-to-small spot response ratios, and the extent of tracer coupling following injection with Neurobiotin. Further, application of SNP eliminated the increase in coupling of horizontal cells normally seen with exposure to dim background illumination. Application of 8-bromo-cGMP produced effects similar to those of the NO donors, consistent with the idea that the uncoupling actions of NO were mediated via a cGMP cascade. In addition, the NO donors and cGMP augmented the responsiveness of A- and B-type cells to both small and large spots of light. This augmentation appeared to be due to secondary effects on photoreceptor transduction and/or photoreceptor-to-horizontal cell synaptic efficacy that were distinct from the actions on gap junctions. Our results suggest that NO may mediate changes in coupling between horizontal cells related to the adaptational state of the mammalian retina.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular / drug effects
  • Adaptation, Ocular / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Biotin / pharmacology
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cyclic GMP / pharmacology
  • Gap Junctions / drug effects*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / drug effects
  • Nerve Net / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Donors / pharmacology
  • Nitroprusside / pharmacology
  • Penicillamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Penicillamine / pharmacology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / drug effects*
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • S-Nitroso-N-Acetylpenicillamine
  • Vision, Ocular / drug effects
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology


  • Nitric Oxide Donors
  • neurobiotin
  • Nitroprusside
  • 8-bromocyclic GMP
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Biotin
  • S-Nitroso-N-Acetylpenicillamine
  • Penicillamine
  • Cyclic GMP