Gap junctions are essential for generating the correlated spike activity of neighboring retinal ganglion cells

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 23;8(7):e69426. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069426. Print 2013.


Neurons throughout the brain show spike activity that is temporally correlated to that expressed by their neighbors, yet the generating mechanism(s) remains unclear. In the retina, ganglion cells (GCs) show robust, concerted spiking that shapes the information transmitted to central targets. Here we report the synaptic circuits responsible for generating the different types of concerted spiking of GC neighbors in the mouse retina. The most precise concerted spiking was generated by reciprocal electrical coupling of GC neighbors via gap junctions, whereas indirect electrical coupling to a common cohort of amacrine cells generated the correlated activity with medium precision. In contrast, the correlated spiking with the lowest temporal precision was produced by shared synaptic inputs carrying photoreceptor noise. Overall, our results demonstrate that different synaptic circuits generate the discrete types of GC correlated activity. Moreover, our findings expand our understanding of the roles of gap junctions in the retina, showing that they are essential for generating all forms of concerted GC activity transmitted to central brain targets.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Amacrine Cells / physiology
  • Animals
  • Connexins / deficiency
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Connexins
  • connexin 36