Distinct ionotropic GABA receptors mediate presynaptic and postsynaptic inhibition in retinal bipolar cells

Colleen R. Shields, My N. Tran, Rachel O.L. Wong, Peter D. Lukasiewicz

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Ionotropic GABA receptors can mediate presynaptic and postsynaptic inhibition. We assessed the contributions of GABA(A) and GABA(C) receptors to inhibition at the dendrites and axon terminals of ferret retinal bipolar cells by recording currents evoked by focal application of GABA in the retinal slice. Currents elicited at the dendrites were mediated predominantly by GABA(A) receptors, whereas responses evoked at the terminals had GABA(A) and GABA(C) components. The ratio of GABA(C) to GABA(A) (GABA(C): GABA(A)) was highest in rod bipolar cell terminals and variable among cone bipolars, but generally was lower in OFF than in ON classes. Our results also suggest that the GABA(C):GABA(A) could influence the time course of responses. Currents evoked at the terminals decayed slowly in cell types for which the GABA(C):GABA(A) was high, but decayed relatively rapidly in cells for which this ratio was low. Immunohistochemical studies corroborated our physiological results. GABA(A) β2/3 subunit immunoreactivity was intense in the outer and inner plexiform layers (OPL and IPL, respectively). GABA(C) ρ subunit labeling was weak in the OPL but strong in the IPL in which puncta colocalized with terminals of rod bipolars immunoreactive for protein kinase C and of cone bipolars immunoreactive for calbindin or recoverin. These data demonstrate that GABA(A) receptors mediate GABAergic inhibition on bipolar cell dendrites in the OPL, that GABA(A) and GABA(C) receptors mediate inhibition on axon terminals in the IPL, and that the GABA(C): GABA(A) on the terminals may tune the response characteristics of the bipolar cell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2673-2682
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2000


  • Cone bipolar cells
  • GABA
  • GABA(A) receptors
  • GABA(C) receptors
  • Ionotropic GABA receptors
  • Postsynaptic inhibition
  • Presynaptic inhibition
  • Retinal bipolar cells
  • Rod bipolar cells


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