Localization of kainate receptors at the cone pedicles of the primate retina

J Comp Neurol. 2001 Aug 6;436(4):471-86. doi: 10.1002/cne.1081.


In the macaque monkey retina cone pedicles, the output synapses of cone photoreceptors, contain between 20 and 45 ribbon synapses (triads), which are the release sites for glutamate, the cone transmitter. Several hundred postsynaptic dendrites contact individual cone pedicles, and we studied the glutamate receptors expressed and clustered at these contacts, particularly the kainate receptor subunits GluR5, GluR6/7, and KA2. Pre- and postembedding immunocytochemistry and electron microscopy were used to localize GluR5 and GluR6/7 to specific synaptic contacts at the cone pedicle base. The GluR5 subunit was aggregated at bipolar cell flat contacts. The GluR6/7 subunit was aggregated at bipolar cell flat contacts and at the desmosome-like junctions formed by horizontal cell processes underneath the cone pedicles. KA2 immunoreactivity was observed at the invaginating dendritic tips of ON-cone and rod bipolar cells, which we interpret as a cross-reactivity of the KA2 antiserum with some other, unknown protein of the monkey retina. Kainate receptors are preferentially expressed by OFF-cone bipolar cells and to a lesser extent by horizontal cells. We also performed double-labeling experiments with the ribbon-specific marker bassoon and with antibodies against GluR5 and GluR6/7 in order to define the position of the flat bipolar cell contacts with respect to the triads. There was a tendency of GluR6/7 clusters to represent triad-associated contacts, whereas GluR5 clusters represented non-triad-associated contacts. The GluR5 and GluR6/7 subunits were clustered at different bipolar cell contacts. We studied a possible cone-selective expression of the kainate receptor subunits by double labeling cone pedicles for the S-cone opsin and for the different receptor subunits. We observed a reduced expression of both GluR5 and GluR6/7 at the S-cone pedicles. The reduced expression of GluR6/7 was analyzed in more detail and it appears to be a consequence of a horizontal cell-specific expression: H1 horizontal cells express GluR6/7, whereas H2 horizontal cells, which preferentially innervate S-cones, show no expression of GluR6/7.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / metabolism*
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Retina / ultrastructure
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / ultrastructure


  • Gluk1 kainate receptor
  • Gluk2 kainate receptor
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid