Blocking retinal chloride co-transporters KCC2 and NKCC: impact on direction selective ON and OFF responses in the rat's nucleus of the optic tract

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e44724. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044724. Epub 2012 Sep 6.


In the present study we investigated in vivo the effects of pharmacological manipulation of retinal processing on the response properties of direction selective retinal slip cells in the nucleus of the optic tract and dorsal terminal nucleus (NOT-DTN), the key visuomotor interface in the pathway underlying the optokinetic reflex. Employing a moving visual stimulus consisting of either a large dark or light edge we could differentiate direction selective ON and OFF responses in retinal slip cells. To disclose the origin of the retinal slip cells' unexpected OFF response we selectively blocked the retinal ON channels and inactivated the visual cortex by cooling. Cortical cooling had no effect on the direction selectivity of the ON or the OFF response in NOT-DTN retinal slip cells. Blockade of the retinal ON channel with APB led to a loss of the ON and, to a lesser degree, of the OFF response and a reduction in direction selectivity. Subsequent blocking of GABA receptors in the retina with picrotoxin unmasked a vigorous albeit direction unselective OFF response in the NOT-DTN. Disturbing the retinal chloride homeostasis by intraocular injections of bumetanide or furosemide led to a loss of direction selectivity in both the NOT-DTN's ON and the OFF response due to a reduced response in the neuron's preferred direction under bumetanide as well as under furosemide and a slightly increased response in the null direction under bumetanide. Our results indicate that the direction specificity of retinal slip cells in the NOT-DTN of the rat strongly depends on direction selective retinal input which depends on intraretinal chloride homeostasis. On top of the well established input from ON center direction selective ganglion cells we could demonstrate an equally effective input from the retinal OFF system to the NOT-DTN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bumetanide / pharmacology
  • Chlorides / metabolism
  • Darkness
  • Female
  • Furosemide / pharmacology
  • Homeostasis
  • Light
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Retina / drug effects
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Chloride Symporters / drug effects*
  • Symporters / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*


  • Chlorides
  • Sodium-Potassium-Chloride Symporters
  • Symporters
  • potassium-chloride symporters
  • Bumetanide
  • Picrotoxin
  • Furosemide

Grant support

K.-P. Hoffmann was supported by a ZEN grant from the Hertie Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.