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Eur J Neurosci. 2001 Jan;13(1):15-24.

Heterogeneous distribution of AMPA glutamate receptor subunits at the photoreceptor synapses of rodent retina.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung, Abteilung für Neuroanatomie, Deutschordenstr. 46, D-60528 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


In the retina the segregation of different aspects of visual information starts at the first synapse in signal transfer from the photoreceptors to the second-order neurons, via the neurotransmitter glutamate. We examined the distribution of the four AMPA glutamate receptor subunits GluR1-GluR4 at the photoreceptor synapses in mouse and rat retinae by light and immunoelectron microscopy and serial section reconstructions. On the dendrites of OFF-cone bipolar cells, which make flat, noninvaginating contacts postsynaptic at cone synaptic terminals, the subunits GluR1 and GluR2 were predominantly found. Horizontal cell processes postsynaptic at both rod and cone synaptic terminals preferentially expressed the subunits GluR2, GluR2/3 and GluR4. An intriguing finding was the presence of GluR2/3 and GluR4 subunits on dendrites of putative rod bipolar cells, which are thought to signal through the sign-inverting metabotropic glutamate receptor 6, mGluR6. Furthermore, at the rod terminals, horizontal cell processes and rod bipolar cell dendrites showed labelling for the AMPA receptor subunits at the ribbon synaptic site or perisynaptically at their site of invagination into the rod terminal. The wide distribution of AMPA receptor subunits at the photoreceptor synapses suggests that AMPA receptors play an important role in visual signal transfer from the photoreceptors to their postsynaptic partners.

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