Glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are the major inhibitory neurotransmitters in the retina. Approximately half of the amacrine cells release glycine at their synapses with bipolar, other amacrine, and ganglion cells. Whereas the retinal distributions of glycine receptor (GlyR) subunits alpha1, alpha2, and alpha3 have been mapped, the role of the alpha4 subunit in retinal circuitry remains unclear. A rabbit polyclonal antiserum was raised against a peptide that comprises the C-terminal 14 amino acids of the mouse GlyR alpha4 subunit. Using immunocytochemistry, we localized the alpha4 subunit in the inner plexiform layer (IPL) in brightly fluorescent puncta, which represent postsynaptically clustered GlyRs. This was shown by double-labeling sections for GlyR alpha4 and synaptic markers (bassoon, gephyrin). Double-labeling sections for GlyR alpha4 and the other GlyR alpha subunits shows that they are mostly clustered at different synapses; however, approximately 30% of the alpha4-containing synapses also express the alpha2 subunit. We also studied the pre- and postsynaptic partners at GlyR alpha4-containing synapses and found that displaced (ON-) cholinergic amacrine cells prominently expressed the alpha4 subunit. The density of GlyR alpha4-expressing synapses in wildtype, Glra1(ot/ot), and Glra3(-/-) mouse retinas did not differ significantly. Thus, there is no apparent compensation of the loss of alpha1 or alpha3 subunits by an upregulation of alpha4 subunit gene expression; however, the alpha2 subunit is moderately upregulated.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.