Rod, M-cone and M/S-cone inputs to hyperpolarizing bipolar cells in the mouse retina

J Physiol. 2012 Feb 15;590(4):845-54. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.224113. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


Bipolar cells are the central neurons of the retina that convey visual signals from rod and cone photoreceptors in the outer retina to higher-order neurons in the inner retina and the brain. Early anatomical studies have suggested that there are four types of cone hyperpolarizing (OFF) bipolar cells (HBCs) in the mouse retina, but no light responses have been systematically examined. By analysing light-evoked cation and chloride currents (I(C) and I(Cl)) from over 50 morphologically identified HBCs in the dark-adapted wildtype and connexin36 knockout (Cx36(-/-)) mouse retinas, we identified three types of HBCs, each with distinct light responses and morphological characteristics. The HBC(R/MC)s with axon terminals ramifying between 0% and 30% of the inner plexiform layer (IPL) receive mixed inputs from rods and M-cones, the HBC(MC)s with axon terminals ramifying between 10% and 50% of the IPL receive inputs primarily from M-cones, and the HBC(M/SC)s with axon terminals ramifying between 25% and 50% of IPL receive inputs primarily from cones with mixed M- and S-cone pigments. Moreover, we found that HBC(R/MC)s in the Cx36(-/-) mice exhibit light responses very similar to the wildtype HBC(R/MC)s, suggesting that the mixed rod-cone inputs are not mediated by connexin36-dependent rod-cone coupling, but rather by direct synaptic contacts from rods and M-cones. This study constitutes the first systematic investigation that correlates light response characteristics and axonal morphology of HBCs in dark-adapted mouse retina, and contributes to recently emerging evidence that revises the traditional view that mammalian HBCs only contact cone photoreceptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Connexins / deficiency
  • Connexins / genetics
  • Light
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Connexins
  • connexin 36