Electrical synapses mediate signal transmission in the rod pathway of the mammalian retina

J Neurosci. 2002 Dec 15;22(24):10558-66. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.22-24-10558.2002.


In the retina, AII (rod) amacrine cells are essential for integrating rod signals into the cone pathway. In addition to being interconnected via homologous gap junctions, these cells make extensive heterologous gap junctions with ON-cone bipolar cells (BCs). These gap junctions are the pathway for transfer of rod signals to the ON-system. To investigate the functional properties of these gap junctions, we performed simultaneous whole-cell recordings from pairs of AII amacrine cells and ON-cone bipolar cells in the in vitro slice preparation of the rat retina. We demonstrate strong electrical coupling with symmetrical junction conductance (approximately 1.2 nS) and very low steady-state voltage sensitivity. However, signal transmission is more effective in the direction from AII amacrine cells to ON-cone bipolar cells than in the other direction. This functional rectification can be explained by a corresponding difference in membrane input resistance between the two cell types. Signal transmission has low-pass filter characteristics with increasing attenuation and phase shift for increasing stimulus frequency. Action potentials in AII amacrine cells evoke distinct electrical postsynaptic potentials in ON-cone bipolar cells. Strong and temporally precise synchronization of subthreshold membrane potential fluctuations are commonly observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amacrine Cells / cytology
  • Amacrine Cells / physiology
  • Animals
  • Culture Techniques
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Periodicity
  • Rats
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission*