Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a potent bioactive peptide that is widely expressed in the nervous system, including the retina. Here we show that specific NPY immunoreactivity was localized to amacrine and displaced amacrine cells in the rat retina. Immunoreactive cells had a regular distribution across the retina and an overall cell density of 280 cells/mm(2) in the inner nuclear layer (INL) and 90 cells/mm(2) in the ganglion cell layer (GCL). In the INL, most immunoreactive cells were characterized by small cell bodies and fine processes that appeared to ramify primarily in stratum 1 of the inner plexiform layer (IPL). A few cells in the INL also ramified in stratum 3 of the IPL. In the GCL, small to medium immunoreactive cells appeared to ramify primarily in stratum 5 of the IPL. A few immunoreactive processes, originating from somata in the INL and processes in the IPL, ramified in the OPL. NPY-immunoreactive cells contained GABA immunoreactivity, and some amacrine cells also contained tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity. NPY-immunostained processes were most frequently presynaptic to nonimmunostained amacrine and ganglion cell processes and postsynaptic to nonimmunostained amacrine cell processes and cone bipolar cell axonal terminals. These findings indicate that NPY immunoreactivity is present in two populations of amacrine cells, one located in the INL and the other in the GCL, and that these cells mainly form synaptic contacts with other amacrine cells. These observations suggest that NPY-immunoreactive cells participate in multiple circuits mediating visual information processing in the inner retina.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.