Visual Neuroscience

Bipolar cell function

Multiple pathways of inhibition shape bipolar cell responses in the retina


a1 Department of Physiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

a2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

a3 Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

a4 Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri


Bipolar cells (BCs) are critical relay neurons in the retina that are organized into parallel signaling pathways. The three main signaling pathways in the mammalian retina are the rod, ON cone, and OFF cone BCs. Rod BCs mediate incrementing dim light signals from rods, and ON cone and OFF cone BCs mediate incrementing and decrementing brighter light signals from cones, respectively. The outputs of BCs are shaped by inhibitory inputs from GABAergic and glycinergic amacrine cells in the inner plexiform layer, mediated by three distinct types of inhibitory receptors: GABAA, GABAC, and glycine receptors. The three main BC pathways receive distinct forms of inhibition from these three receptors that shape their light-evoked inhibitory signals. Rod BC inhibition is dominated by slow GABAC receptor inhibition, while OFF cone BCs are dominated by glycinergic inhibition. The inhibitory inputs to BCs are also shaped by serial inhibitory connections between GABAergic amacrine cells that limit the spatial profile of BC inhibition. We discuss our recent studies on how inhibitory inputs to BCs are shaped by receptor expression, receptor properties, and neurotransmitter release properties and how these affect the output of BCs.

(Received June 01 2010)

(Accepted July 27 2010)

(Online publication October 08 2010)


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Erika D. Eggers, Department of Physiology, P.O. Box 245051, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724. E-mail: