Differential signalling and glutamate receptor compositions in the OFF bipolar cell types in the mouse retina

J Physiol. 2016 Feb 15;594(4):883-94. doi: 10.1113/JP271458. Epub 2015 Dec 20.


Key points: Using whole-cell clamp methods, we characterized the temporal coding in each type of OFF bipolar cell. We found that type 2 and 3a cells are transient, type 1 and 4 cells are sustained, and type 3b cells are intermediate. The light-evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials in some types were rectified, suggesting that they provide inputs to the non-linear ganglion cells. Visual signalling from the photoreceptors was mediated exclusively through the kainate receptors in the transient OFF bipolar cells, whereas both kainate and AMPA receptors contributed in the other cells. This study demonstrates, for the first time, that parallel visual encoding starts at the OFF bipolar cells in a type-specific manner.

Abstract: The retina is the entrance to the visual system, which receives various kinds of image signals and forms multiple encoding pathways. The second-order retinal neurons, the bipolar cells, are thought to initiate multiple neural streams by encoding various visual signals in different types of cells. However, the functions of each bipolar cell type have not been fully understood. We investigated whether OFF bipolar cells encode visual signals in a type-dependent manner. We recorded the changes in the bipolar cell voltage in response to two input functions: step and sinusoidal light stimuli. Type 1 and 4 OFF bipolar cells were sustained cells and responded to sinusoidal stimuli over a broad range of frequencies. Type 2 and 3a cells were transient and exhibited band-pass filtering. Type 3b cells were in the middle of these two groups. The distinct temporal responses might be attributed to different types of glutamate receptors. We examined the AMPA and kainate glutamate receptor composition in each bipolar cell type. The light responses in the transient OFF bipolar cells were exclusively mediated by kainate receptors. Although the kainate receptors mediated the light responses in the sustained cells, the AMPA receptors also mediated a portion of the responses in sustained cells. Furthermore, we found that some types of cells were rectified more than other types. Taken together, we found that the OFF bipolar cells encode diverse temporal image signals in a type-dependent manner, confirming that each type of OFF bipolar cell initiates diverse temporal visual processing in parallel.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Receptors, AMPA / genetics
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / genetics
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / metabolism*
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / physiology
  • Synaptic Potentials


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid