OFF-alpha and OFF-beta ganglion cells in cat retina: II. Neural circuitry as revealed by electron microscopy of HRP stains

J Comp Neurol. 1993 Mar 1;329(1):85-110. doi: 10.1002/cne.903290107.


An OFF-center alpha and an OFF-center beta ganglion cell in cat retina, which had been recorded from and intracellularly stained with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) were examined by serial section electron microscopy. We counted synapses and identified presynaptic neurons to the HRP-stained cells in 20 microns radial slices through the centers of their dendritic trees. Presynaptic amacrine and bipolar cells were identified on cytological criteria known from previous studies. The OFF-beta cell with a 62 microns dendritic arbor, restricted to S1 and S2 (sublamina a) of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), received 38% bipolar and 62% amacrine cell synapses. The bipolar input was from both cb1 and cb2 cone bipolar types. Input from three distinct amacrine cell types occurred upon the dendrites, namely from: (1) AII amacrine lobular appendages, (2) large pale amacrine profiles (possibly A2 or A3 cells), and (3) small, dark amacrine types (possibly A8 cells). Large pale amacrine profiles (possibly A13) were found on the cell body and apical dendrite in sublamina b of the IPL. In addition, several amacrine profiles synapsed directly on the sides and base of the cell body in the ganglion cell layer. We estimate that the complete dendritic tree of this beta cell received about 1,000 synapses contributed by 12-14 bipolar cells, 7-10 AII amacrines and 28-41 other amacrine cells. The OFF-alpha cell had a dendritic tree size of 680 x 920 microns. A 250 microns length of two major dendrites stratifying narrowly in S2 of the IPL was reconstructed. Amacrine cells provided most of the synaptic input (80%). This input came from: (1) AII amacrine lobular appendages, (2) amacrines exhibiting large, pale synaptic profiles (possibly A2 or A3 cells), (3) pale amacrines with large mitochondria and a few neurotubules (unknown type), and (4) densely neurotubule-filled amacrine profiles (possibly A19 cells). A large pale amacrine cell type (possibly A13) provided synaptic input to the cell body as a serial synaptic intermediary with rod bipolar cells. Cone bipolar synapses were from only one type of cone bipolar, the cb2 type and formed 20% of the total synaptic input. We estimate that a minimum of 142 bipolar cells, 256 AII amacrine cells and 1,011 other amacrine cells, altogether providing 6,000-10,000 synapses, converged on the dendritic tree of this OFF-alpha cell.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats / anatomy & histology*
  • Cats / physiology
  • Cell Size
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / ultrastructure


  • Horseradish Peroxidase