Glycine and GABA receptors in the mammalian retina

Vision Res. 1998 May;38(10):1411-30. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(97)00300-3.


Molecular cloning has introduced an unexpected diversity of neurotransmitter receptors. In this study we review the types, the localization and possible synaptic function of the inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors in the mammalian retina. Glycine receptors (GlyRs) and their localization in the mammalian retina were analyzed immunocytochemically. Specific antibodies against the alpha 1 subunit of the GlyR (mAb2b) and against all subunits of the GlyR (mAb4a) were used. Both antibodies produced a punctate immunofluorescence, which was shown by electron microscopy to represent clustering of GlyRs at synaptic sites. Synapses expressing the alpha 1 subunit of the GlyR were found on ganglion cell dendrites and on bipolar cell axons. GlyRs were also investigated in the oscillator mutant mouse. The complete loss of the alpha 1 subunit was compensated for by an apparent upregulation of the other subunits of the GlyR. GABAA receptors (GABAARs) and their retinal distribution were studied with specific antibodies that recognize the alpha 1, alpha 2, alpha 3, beta 1, beta 2, beta 3, gamma 2 and delta subunits. Most antibodies produced a punctate immunofluorescence in the inner plexiform layer (IPL) which was shown by electron microscopy to represent synaptic clustering of GABAARs. The density of puncta varied across the IPL and different subunits were found in characteristic strata. This stratification pattern was analyzed with respect to the ramification of cholinergic amacrine cells. Using intracellular injection with Lucifer yellow followed by immunofluorescence, we found that GABAARs composed of different subunits were expressed by the same ganglion cell, however, they were clustered at different synaptic sites. The distribution of GABAC receptors was studied in the mouse and in the rabbit retina using an antiserum that recognizes the rho 1, rho 2 and rho 3 subunits. GABAC receptors were found to be clustered at postsynaptic sites. Most, if not all of the synapses were found on rod and cone bipolar axon terminals. In conclusion we find a great diversity of glycine and GABA receptors in the mammalian retina, which might match the plethora of morphological types of amacrine cells. This may also point to subtle differences in synaptic function still to be elucidated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / chemistry
  • Dendrites / chemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Mutation
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA / analysis*
  • Receptors, Glycine / analysis*
  • Receptors, Glycine / genetics
  • Retina / chemistry*
  • Retina / ultrastructure


  • Receptors, GABA
  • Receptors, Glycine