In the vertebrate retina, glutamate is traditionally thought to be released only by photoreceptors and bipolar cells to transmit visual signals radially along parallel ON and OFF channels. Lateral interactions in the inner retina are mediated by amacrine cells, which are thought to be inhibitory neurons. Here, we report calcium-dependent glutamate release from vGluT3-expressing amacrine cells (GACs) in the mouse retina. GACs provide an excitatory glutamatergic input to ON-OFF and ON direction-selective ganglion cells (DSGCs) and a subpopulation of W3 ganglion cells, but not to starburst amacrine cells. GACs receive excitatory inputs from both ON and OFF channels, generate ON-OFF light responses with a medium-center, wide-surround receptive field structure, and directly regulate ganglion cell activity. The results reveal a functional glutamatergic circuit that mediates noncanonical excitatory interactions in the retina and probably plays a role in generating ON-OFF responses, crossover excitation, and lateral excitation.
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