We have recorded the electroretinogram (ERG) from the superfused eyecup of the Xenopus retina in order to assess the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and its agonists and antagonists, on individual ERG components. We found that GABA (0.5–10 mM) reduced the amplitudes of both the b- and d-waves of the Xenopus ERG. The GABA uptake blocker nipecotic acid (1 mM) had similar effects on b- and d-waves. GABA at 5 mM and 10 mM also caused an increase in the a-wave. The GABA antagonist picrotoxin (0.1–2 mM) and the GABA/a antagonist bicuculline (0.2 mM) both increased the amplitude of the b- and d-waves of the ERG. The GABA/b agonist baclofen (0.3 mM) reduced the amplitude of the ERG b-wave, enhanced the amplitude of the a-wave, and slightly reduced the amplitude and increased the peak time of the d-wave. The GABA/b antagonists phaclofen and saclofen had no reliable effects on the Xenopus ERG. Glutamate analogs known to affect specific types of retinal neurons were applied to modify the retinal circuitry and then the effects of GABA and its antagonists were examined under these modified conditions. 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (APB) increased the d-wave, and blocked the b-wave and the effect of GABA on the ERG, but not the antagonist-induced increase in the d-wave. KYN blocked the antagonist-induced increase in the b-wave, while GABA increases the amplitude of the b-wave if the d-wave has been removed by prior superfusion with kynurenic acid (KYN). N-methyl-DL-aspartate (NMDLA), which acts only in the proximal retina, reduced the amplitude of the ERG and blocked the effect of GABA and the antagonist-induced increase in ERG b- and d-waves amplitude. These results suggest that GABAergic mechanisms related to both A and B receptor types can influence the amplitude and light sensitivity of all the components of the Xenopus ERG. Since GABA is found in greatest abundance in the proximal retina, and B type of receptors are present almost exclusively there, the data suggests that most of the effects of GABA agonists and antagonists observed are dependent on proximal retinal mechanisms, and that there are separate mechanisms in the proximal retina related to the b- and the d-waves.
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