Chromatic properties of horizontal and ganglion cell responses follow a dual gradient in cone opsin expression

J Neurosci. 2006 Nov 22;26(47):12351-61. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1071-06.2006.


In guinea pig retina, immunostaining reveals a dual gradient of opsins: cones expressing opsin sensitive to medium wavelengths (M) predominate in the upper retina, whereas cones expressing opsin sensitive to shorter wavelengths (S) predominate in the lower retina. Whether these gradients correspond to functional gradients in postreceptoral neurons is essentially unknown. Using monochromatic flashes, we measured the relative weights with which M, S, and rod signals contribute to horizontal cell responses. For a background that produced 4.76 log10 photoisomerizations per rod per second (Rh*/rod/s), mean weights in superior retina were 52% (M), 2% (S), and 46% (rod). Mean weights in inferior retina were 9% (M), 50% (S), and 41% (rod). In superior retina, cone opsin weights agreed quantitatively with relative pigment density estimates from immunostaining. In inferior retina, cone opsin weights agreed qualitatively with relative pigment density estimates, but quantitative comparison was impossible because individual cones coexpress both opsins to varying and unquantifiable degrees. We further characterized the functional gradients in horizontal and brisk-transient ganglion cells using flickering stimuli produced by various mixtures of blue and green primary lights. Cone weights for both cell types resembled those obtained for horizontal cells using monochromatic flashes. Because the brisk-transient ganglion cell is thought to mediate behavioral detection of luminance contrast, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the dual gradient of cone opsins assists achromatic contrast detection against different spectral backgrounds. In our preparation, rod responses did not completely saturate, even at background light levels typical of outdoor sunlight (5.14 log10 Rh*/rod/s).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / radiation effects
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Horizontal Cells / physiology*
  • Rod Opsins / metabolism*


  • Rod Opsins