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J Gen Physiol. 2003 Dec;122(6):657-71. Epub 2003 Nov 10.

pH changes in the invaginating synaptic cleft mediate feedback from horizontal cells to cone photoreceptors by modulating Ca2+ channels.

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Department of Physiology, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.


Feedback from horizontal cells (HCs) to cone photoreceptors plays a key role in the center-surround-receptive field organization of retinal neurons. Recordings from cone photoreceptors in newt retinal slices were obtained by the whole-cell patch-clamp technique, using a superfusate containing a GABA antagonist (100 microM picrotoxin). Surround illumination of the receptive field increased the voltage-dependent calcium current (ICa) in the cones, and shifted the activation voltage of ICa to negative voltages. External alkalinization also increased cone ICa and shifted its activation voltage toward negative voltages. Enrichment of the pH buffering capacity of the extracellular solution increased cone ICa, and blocked any additional increase in cone ICa by surround illumination. Hyperpolarization of the HCs by a glutamate receptor antagonist-augmented cone ICa, whereas depolarization of the HCs by kainate suppressed cone ICa. From these results, we propose the hypothesis that pH changes in the synaptic clefts, which are intimately related to the membrane voltage of the HCs, mediate the feedback from the HCs to cone photoreceptors. The feedback mediated by pH changes in the synaptic cleft may serve as an additional mechanism for the center-surround organization of the receptive field in the outer retina.

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