The synaptic organization of the dopaminergic amacrine cell in the cat retina

J Neurocytol. 1990 Jun;19(3):343-66. doi: 10.1007/BF01188404.


The dopaminergic amacrine cells of the cat retina have been stained by immunocytochemistry using an antibody to tyrosine hydroxylase (Toh). The complete population of Toh+ cells has been studied by light microscopy of retinal wholemounts to evaluate morphological details of dendritic structure and branching patterns. Selected Toh+ amacrine cells have been studied by serial-section electron microscopy to analyse synaptic input and output relationships. The majority of Toh+ amacrine cells occur in the amacrine cell layer of the retina and have their dendrites ramifying and forming the characteristic rings in stratum 1 of the inner plexiform layer. A minority of Toh+ cells have cell bodies displaced to the ganglion cell layer but their dendrites also stratify in stratum 1. All Toh+ cells have some dendritic branches running in stratum 2 as well as in stratum 1, and frequently they have long 'axon-like' processes (500-1000 microns long) dipping down to run in stratum 5 before passing up to rejoin the major dendritic arbors in stratum 1. In addition Toh+ stained processes follow blood vessels in the inner plexiform layer and in the ganglion cell layer. A population of Toh+ cells found in the inferior retina appears to give rise to stained processes that pass to the outer plexiform layer and therein to run for as far as one millimeter. Electron microscopy reveals that Toh+ amacrine cells are postsynaptic to amacrine cells and a few bipolar cell terminals in stratum 1 of the inner plexiform layer and are primarily presynaptic to AII amacrine cell bodies and lobular appendages, and to another type of amacrine cell body and amacrine dendrites hypothesized to be the A17 amacrine cell. The Toh+ dendrites in stratum 2 are presynaptic to AII lobular appendages primarily. Stained 'axon-like' processes running in stratum 5 prove to be presynaptic to AII amacrine dendrites as they approach the rod bipolar axon terminals and they may also be presynaptic to the rod bipolar terminal itself. The Toh+ stained dendrites that have been followed in the outer plexiform layer run along the top of the B-type horizontal cell somata and may have small synapses upon them. The only clear synapses seen in the outer plexiform layer are from the Toh+ profiles upon vesicle filled amacrine-like profiles that are in turn presynaptic to bipolar cell dendrites in the outer plexiform layer. We presume the cells postsynaptic to the Toh+ dendrites in the outer plexiform layer are interplexiform cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Retina / anatomy & histology
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / ultrastructure
  • Retinal Vessels / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*


  • Dopamine