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GABAA receptors in the retina of the cat: An immunohistochemical study of wholemounts, sections, and dissociated cells

  • Thomas E. Hughes (a1) (a2), Ulrike Grönert (a2) and Harvey J. Karten (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2009

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter used by many neurons of the mammalian retina. To identify the synaptic targets of these cells, we undertook an immunohistochemical study with a monoclonal antibody that recognizes the GABAA receptors (62−3G1, generously donated by A. de Blas). This antibody labels the somata of at least one group of amacrine cells in the inner nuclear layer. It also labels two groups of somata in the ganglion cell layer: one small and the other much larger. The small cells are likely to be displaced amacrine cells based on their size, although some could be gamma ganglion cells. The much larger receptor-positive cells are clearly ganglion cells, based both on their size and the antibody labeling of the initial portion of their axon. In the peripheral retina, the size of these large somata suggests that many are beta ganglion cells. However, at any point across the retina the density of these cells never exceeded 50% of the density of beta cells as a whole.

The antibody also labels a dense plexus of processes that extends throughout the inner plexiform layer (IPL), with a marked concentration in the inner third of the layer. This is the portion of the IPL in which the rod bipolar cells terminate. It is difficult to recognize processes of individual cells in the IPL, so retinae were dissociated. The rod bipolar cells were identified by protein kinase C immunoreactivity (Negishi et al., 1988; Karschin & Wässle, 1990). They were not labeled by the GABAA receptor antibody. This is surprising in light of tight-seal, whole cell voltage-clamp recordings that have shown that the rod bipolars express functional GABAA receptors. One possible explanation is that the antibody recognizes only a subset of the GABAA receptors.

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