Dopaminergic amacrine cells express opioid receptors in the mouse retina

Vis Neurosci. 2012 May;29(3):203-9. doi: 10.1017/S0952523812000156.


The presence of opioid receptors has been confirmed by a variety of techniques in vertebrate retinas including those of mammals; however, in most reports, the location of these receptors has been limited to retinal regions rather than specific cell types. Concurrently, our knowledge of the physiological functions of opioid signaling in the retina is based on only a handful of studies. To date, the best-documented opioid effect is the modulation of retinal dopamine release, which has been shown in a variety of vertebrate species. Nonetheless, it is not known if opioids can affect dopaminergic amacrine cells (DACs) directly, via opioid receptors expressed by DACs. This study, using immunohistochemical methods, sought to determine whether (1) μ- and δ-opioid receptors (MORs and DORs, respectively) are present in the mouse retina, and if present, (2) are they expressed by DACs. We found that MOR and DOR immunolabeling were associated with multiple cell types in the inner retina, suggesting that opioids might influence visual information processing at multiple sites within the mammalian retinal circuitry. Specifically, colabeling studies with the DAC molecular marker anti-tyrosine hydroxylase antibody showed that both MOR and DOR immunolabeling localize to DACs. These findings predict that opioids can affect DACs in the mouse retina directly, via MOR and DOR signaling, and might modulate dopamine release as reported in other mammalian and nonmammalian retinas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amacrine Cells / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / biosynthesis
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Goats / immunology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Receptors, Opioid / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / immunology
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / physiology
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / immunology
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / physiology
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase