Display Settings:

Format

Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Mol Vis. 2011 Feb 3;17:355-79.

Exploring the retinal connectome.

Author information

  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

A connectome is a comprehensive description of synaptic connectivity for a neural domain. Our goal was to produce a connectome data set for the inner plexiform layer of the mammalian retina. This paper describes our first retinal connectome, validates the method, and provides key initial findings.

METHODS:

We acquired and assembled a 16.5 terabyte connectome data set RC1 for the rabbit retina at ≈ 2 nm resolution using automated transmission electron microscope imaging, automated mosaicking, and automated volume registration. RC1 represents a column of tissue 0.25 mm in diameter, spanning the inner nuclear, inner plexiform, and ganglion cell layers. To enhance ultrastructural tracing, we included molecular markers for 4-aminobutyrate (GABA), glutamate, glycine, taurine, glutamine, and the in vivo activity marker, 1-amino-4-guanidobutane. This enabled us to distinguish GABAergic and glycinergic amacrine cells; to identify ON bipolar cells coupled to glycinergic cells; and to discriminate different kinds of bipolar, amacrine, and ganglion cells based on their molecular signatures and activity. The data set was explored and annotated with Viking, our multiuser navigation tool. Annotations were exported to additional applications to render cells, visualize network graphs, and query the database.

RESULTS:

Exploration of RC1 showed that the 2 nm resolution readily recapitulated well known connections and revealed several new features of retinal organization: (1) The well known AII amacrine cell pathway displayed more complexity than previously reported, with no less than 17 distinct signaling modes, including ribbon synapse inputs from OFF bipolar cells, wide-field ON cone bipolar cells and rod bipolar cells, and extensive input from cone-pathway amacrine cells. (2) The axons of most cone bipolar cells formed a distinct signal integration compartment, with ON cone bipolar cell axonal synapses targeting diverse cell types. Both ON and OFF bipolar cells receive axonal veto synapses. (3) Chains of conventional synapses were very common, with intercalated glycinergic-GABAergic chains and very long chains associated with starburst amacrine cells. Glycinergic amacrine cells clearly play a major role in ON-OFF crossover inhibition. (4) Molecular and excitation mapping clearly segregates ultrastructurally defined bipolar cell groups into different response clusters. (5) Finally, low-resolution electron or optical imaging cannot reliably map synaptic connections by process geometry, as adjacency without synaptic contact is abundant in the retina. Only direct visualization of synapses and gap junctions suffices.

CONCLUSIONS:

Connectome assembly and analysis using conventional transmission electron microscopy is now practical for network discovery. Our surveys of volume RC1 demonstrate that previously studied systems such as the AII amacrine cell network involve more network motifs than previously known. The AII network, primarily considered a scotopic pathway, clearly derives ribbon synapse input from photopic ON and OFF cone bipolar cell networks and extensive photopic GABAergic amacrine cell inputs. Further, bipolar cells show extensive inputs and outputs along their axons, similar to multistratified nonmammalian bipolar cells. Physiologic evidence of significant ON-OFF channel crossover is strongly supported by our anatomic data, showing alternating glycine-to-GABA paths. Long chains of amacrine cell networks likely arise from homocellular GABAergic synapses between starburst amacrine cells. Deeper analysis of RC1 offers the opportunity for more complete descriptions of specific networks.

PMID:
21311605
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3036568
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

0 comments
How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Icon for Molecular Vision Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk