Retinal connexins (Cx) form gap junctions (GJ) in key circuits that transmit average or synchronize signals. Expression of Cx36, -45, -50 and -57 have been described in many species but there is still a disconcerting paucity of information regarding the Cx makeup of human retinal GJs. We used well-preserved human postmortem samples to characterize Cx36 GJ constituent circuits of the outer plexiform layer (OPL). Based on their location, morphometric characteristics and co-localizations with outer retinal neuronal markers, we distinguished four populations of Cx36 plaques in the human OPL. Three of these were comprised of loosely scattered Cx36 plaques; the distalmost population 1 formed cone-to-rod GJs, population 2 in the mid-OPL formed cone-to-cone GJs, whereas the proximalmost population 4 likely connected bipolar cell dendrites. The fourth population (population 3) of Cx36 plaques conglomerated beneath cone pedicles and connected dendritic tips of bipolar cells that shared a common presynaptic cone. Overall, we show that the human outer retina displays a diverse cohort of Cx36 GJ that follows the general mammalian scheme and display a great functional diversity.
Keywords: Bipolar cell; Cone; Electrical synapse; Gap junction; Photoreceptor; Rod.