A comparison of receptive field and tracer coupling size of horizontal cells in the rabbit retina

Vis Neurosci. 1995 Sep-Oct;12(5):985-99. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800009524.


The large receptive fields of retinal horizontal cells are thought to reflect extensive electrical coupling via gap junctions. It was shown recently that the biotinylated tracers, biocytin and Neurobiotin, provide remarkable images of coupling between many types of retinal neuron, including horizontal cells. Further, these demonstrations of tracer coupling between horizontal cells rivaled the size of their receptive fields, suggesting that the pattern of tracer coupling may provide some index of the extent of electrical coupling. We studied this question by comparing the receptive field and tracer coupling size of dark-adapted horizontal cells recorded in the superfused, isolated retina-eyecup of the rabbit. Both the edge-to-edge receptive field and space constants (lambda) were computed for each cell using a long, narrow slit of light displaced across the retinal surface. Cells were subsequently labeled by iontophoretic injection of Neurobiotin. The axonless A-type horizontal cells showed extensive, homologous tracer coupling in groups greater than 1000 covering distances averaging about 2 mm. The axon-bearing B-type horizontal cells were less extensively tracer coupled, showing homologous coupling of the somatic endings in groups of about 100 cells spanning approximately 400 microns and a separate homologous coupling of the axon terminal endings covering only about 275 microns. Moreover, we observed a remarkable, linear relationship between the size of the receptive fields of each of the three horizontal cell endings and the magnitude of their tracer coupling. Our findings suggest that the extent of tracer coupling provides a strong, linear index of the magnitude of electrical current flow, as derived from receptive-field measures, across groups of coupled horizontal cells. These data thus provide the first direct evidence that the receptive-field size of horizontal cells is related to the extent of their coupling via gap junctions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Dark Adaptation
  • Iontophoresis
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retina / ultrastructure
  • Visual Fields*


  • neurobiotin
  • Biotin