Excitatory and inhibitory contributions to receptive fields of alpha-like retinal ganglion cells in mouse

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Sep;110(6):1426-40. doi: 10.1152/jn.01097.2012. Epub 2013 Jul 10.


The ON and OFF pathways that emerge at the first synapse in the retina are generally thought to be streamed in parallel to higher visual areas, but recent work shows cross talk at the level of retinal ganglion cells. The ON pathway drives inhibitory inputs onto some OFF ganglion cells, such that these neurons show "push-pull" convergence of OFF-excitation and ON-disinhibition. In this study we measure the spatial receptive field of excitatory and inhibitory inputs to OFF-sustained (OFF-S) retinal ganglion cells of mouse, establish how contrast adaptation modulates excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs, and show the pharmacology of the inhibitory inputs. We find that the spatial tuning properties of excitatory and inhibitory inputs are sufficient to determine the spatial profile of the spike output and that high spatial acuity may be particularly reliant on disinhibitory circuits. Contrast adaptation reduced excitation to OFF-S ganglion cells, as expected, and also unmasked an asymmetry in inhibitory inputs: disinhibition at light-off was immune to contrast adaptation, but inhibition at light-on was substantially reduced. In pharmacological experiments we confirm that inhibitory inputs are partly mediated by glycine, but our measurements also suggest a substantial role for GABA. Our observations therefore reveal functional diversity in the inhibitory inputs to OFF ganglion cells and suggest that in addition to enhancing operational range these inputs help shape the spatial receptive fields of ganglion cells.

Keywords: amacrine cell; bipolar cell; contrast adaptation; disinhibition; receptive field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials*
  • GABA Agents / pharmacology
  • Glycine Agents / pharmacology
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*


  • GABA Agents
  • Glycine Agents