Glutamate receptors in the rod pathway of the mammalian retina

J Neurosci. 2001 Nov 1;21(21):8636-47. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.21-21-08636.2001.


Rod bipolar (RB) cells of the mammalian retina release glutamate in a graded, light-dependent fashion from 20 to 40 ribbon synapses (dyads). At the dyads, two classes of amacrine cells, the AI and AII cells, are the postsynaptic partners. We examined the glutamate receptors (GluRs) that are expressed by AI and AII cells using immunocytochemistry with specific antibodies against GluR subunits. Sections of macaque monkey and rabbit retina were examined by confocal microscopy. AII amacrine cells were selectively labeled for calretinin, and AI cells in rabbits were labeled for 5-HT uptake. Thus, double- and triple-labeling for these markers and GluR subunits was possible. Electron microscopy using postembedding immunocytochemistry and double-labeling was applied to show the synaptic expression of GluRs. We also studied the synaptic localization of the two postsynaptic density proteins PSD-95 and glutamate receptor-interacting protein (GRIP). We found that AII amacrine cells express the AMPA receptor subunits GluR2/3 and GluR4 at the RB cell dyads, and they are clustered together with PSD-95. In contrast, AI amacrine cells express the delta1/2 subunits that appear to be associated with kainate receptor subunits and to be clustered together with GRIP. The RB cell dyad is therefore a synapse that initiates two functionally and molecularly distinct pathways: a "through conducting" pathway based on AMPA receptors and a modulatory pathway mediated by a combination of delta1/2 subunits and kainate receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calbindin 2
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Subunits
  • Rabbits
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / metabolism
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Retina / ultrastructure
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / ultrastructure
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Serotonin / pharmacokinetics


  • Calbindin 2
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G
  • postsynaptic density proteins
  • Serotonin