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J Comp Neurol. 2004 Jan 6;468(2):251-63.

Characterization of an amacrine cell type of the mammalian retina immunoreactive for vesicular glutamate transporter 3.

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Department of Neuroanatomy, Max-Planck-Institute for Brain Research, D-60528 Frankfurt/Main, Germany.


Immunocytochemical staining of vertical sections through rat, mouse, and macaque monkey retinae with antibodies against the vesicular glutamate transporter vesicular glutamate transporter 3 (vGluT3) showed a sparse population of amacrine cells. The labeled cells had similar appearances in the three species and probably represent homologous types. They were studied in detail in the rat retina. The thin varicose dendrites of vGluT3 amacrine cells formed a convoluted dendritic tree of approximately 100 microm in diameter that was bistratified in the center of the inner plexiform layer. The dendrites of vGluT3 cells were squeezed between the two strata of cholinergic dendrites. The density of vGluT3 cells was measured in retinal wholemounts and increased from 200/mm2 in peripheral retina to 400/mm2 in central retina, accounting for about 1% of all amacrine cells in the rat retina. The vGluT3 cells had a two- to threefold dendritic overlap, and their cell bodies formed a regular mosaic, suggesting they represent a single type of amacrine cell. The vGluT3 amacrine cells expressed glycine and glycine transporter 1 (GlyT1) but not the vesicular glycine transporter (vesicular inhibitory amino acid transporter). They also expressed glutamate; hence, there is the possibility that, comparable to cholinergic amacrine cells, they are "dual transmitter" amacrine cells. The synaptic input of vGluT3 cells was studied by electron microscopy. They received input from bipolar cells at ribbon synapses and from other amacrine cells at conventional synapses. The types of bipolar cells possibly involved with vGluT3 cells were demonstrated by double labeling sections for vGluT3 and the calcium-binding protein CaB5. The axon terminals of type 3 and 5 bipolar cells costratified with vGluT3 dendrites, and it is possible that vGluT3 cells have ON and OFF light responses.

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