Visual Neuroscience

Morphological and physiological properties of the A17 amacrine cell of the rat retina

a1 Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung, Deutschordenstrasse 46, D-60528 Frankfurt am Main, Germany


In addition to the well-studied AII amacrine cell, there is another amacrine cell type participating in the rod pathway of the mammalian retina. In cat, this cell is called the A17 amacrine cell, and in rabbits, it is called the indoleamine-accumulating amacrine cell (S1 and S2); however, the presence of the corresponding cell type has not yet been described in detail for the rat retina. To this end, we injected amacrine cells with Neurobiotin in vertical retinal slices. After histological processing, we were able to reconstruct the morphology of a wide-field amacrine cell which showed characteristics of A17 and S1/S2 amacrine cells. The rat wide-field amacrine cells exhibited the same stratification pattern, their dendrites bore varicosities and ramified in sublamina 5 of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), and they were dye-coupled to other amacrine cells. To determine whether those amacrine cells shared electrophysiological characteristics as well, we performed whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and examined their voltage-activated currents and neurotransmitter-induced currents. We never observed voltage-gated Na+ currents and spike-like potentials upon depolarization by current injection in these cells. We identified GABA- and glycine-sensitive Cl currents that could be blocked by bicuculline and strychnine, respectively. We also observed kainate- and AMPA-activated currents, which could be inhibited by the application of 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX). Finally, a 400-ms full-field light stimulus was used to characterize the light responses of A17 amacrine cells. The light ON-induced inward current could be suppressed by the application of 2,3-Dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulphonamide (NBQX), while the majority of the light OFF-induced current was inhibited by bicuculline and reduced to a smaller extent by NBQX. CPP, an NMDA blocker, had no effect on the light response of rat A17 amacrine cells.

(Received January 10 2000)
(Accepted May 1 2000)

Key Words: A17 amacrine cell; Rat retina; Light responses; Ionotropic receptors; Gap junctions.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Heinz Wässle, Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung, Deutschordenstrasse 46, D-60528 Frankfurt am Main, Germany. E-mail: