Functional Compartmentalization within Starburst Amacrine Cell Dendrites in the Retina

Cell Rep. 2018 Mar 13;22(11):2898-2908. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.02.064.


Dendrites in many neurons actively compute information. In retinal starburst amacrine cells, transformations from synaptic input to output occur within individual dendrites and mediate direction selectivity, but directional signal fidelity at individual synaptic outputs and correlated activity among neighboring outputs on starburst dendrites have not been examined systematically. Here, we record visually evoked calcium signals simultaneously at many individual synaptic outputs within single starburst amacrine cells in mouse retina. We measure visual receptive fields of individual output synapses and show that small groups of outputs are functionally compartmentalized within starburst dendrites, creating distinct computational units. Inhibition enhances compartmentalization and directional tuning of individual outputs but also decreases the signal-to-noise ratio. Simulations suggest, however, that the noise underlying output signal variability is well tolerated by postsynaptic direction-selective ganglion cells, which integrate convergent inputs to acquire reliable directional information.

Keywords: amacrine cell; correlation; direction selectivity; inhibition; retina; synaptic transmission; visual processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Amacrine Cells / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*