The retinal rod bipolar cell type is involved in the sign-inverting depolarizing ON-type response to light. This response is mediated by the metabotropic glutamate receptor type 6 (mGluR6) expressed on the rod bipolar dendrites. In a previous immunocytochemical study, an unexpected colocalization was reported [W. Kamphuis et al. (2003) J. Comp. Neurol., 455, 172-186] of mGluR6 with the ionotropic AMPA-type glutamate receptor subunit GluR2 in rod bipolar cells of rat retina. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether expression of both genes could be found at the single-cell level. Two approaches were followed. (i). Retinal cells were isolated by enzymatic and mechanical treatment. Single cells with a bipolar morphology were harvested, subjected to multiplex PCR with protein kinase C (PKC)-, mGluR6- and GluR1-4-specific primers, followed by a real-time quantitative PCR assay. Of 23 studied cells, 74% expressed PKC and 87% expressed mGluR6. Using the presence of both transcripts as the criterion for a rod bipolar cell signature (n = 15), 73% of these cells expressed GluR2, with a minor contribution of GluR1 (20%), GluR3 (7%), and GluR4 (20%). Quantification of the transcript levels demonstrated that mGluR6 and GluR2 genes are expressed at similar levels in rod ON-type bipolar cells. (ii). Rod bipolar cells were identified in retinal sections by immunolabelling with a protein kinase C antibody and isolated using laser pressure catapulting (LPC). Quantitative PCR was employed to assess gene expression levels of reference genes, PKCalpha, mGluR6 and the GluR subunits. However, in samples from PKCalpha-immunopositive somata no significant enrichment of PKCalpha transcript levels was observed when compared with control samples from immunonegative somata. We conclude that this approach lacks sufficient spatial specificity. In conclusion, the results show coexpression of mGluR6 and GluR2 in rod bipolar cells; this is in good agreement with the results of previous immunocytochemical studies. The functional implications of AMPA-type glutamate receptors for ON-type rod bipolar-mediated signal transduction remains to be elucidated.