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J Comp Neurol. 2005 Dec 12;493(2):309-20.

Expression and function of the neuronal gap junction protein connexin 36 in developing mammalian retina.

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Neurobiology Section, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, 92093-0357, USA.


With the advent of transgenic mice, much has been learned about the expression and function of gap junctions. Previously, we reported that retinal ganglion cells in mice lacking the neuronal gap junction protein connexin 36 (Cx36) have nearly normal firing patterns at postnatal day 4 (P4) but many more asynchronous action potentials than wild-type mice at P10 (Torborg et al. [2005] Nat. Neurosci. 8:72-78). With the goal of understanding the origin of this increased activity in Cx36-/- mice, we used a transgenic mouse (Deans et al. [2001] Neuron 31:477-485) to characterize the developmental expression of a Cx36 reporter in the retina. We found that Cx36 was first detected weakly at P2 and gradually increased in expression until it reached an adult pattern at P14. Although the onset of expression varied by cell type, we identified Cx36 in the glycinergic AII amacrine cell, glutamatergic cone bipolar cell, and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). In addition, we used calcium imaging and multielectrode array recording to characterize further the firing patterns in Cx36-/- mice. Both correlated and asynchronous action potentials in P10 Cx36-/- RGCs were significantly inhibited by bath application of an ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonist, indicating that the increase in activity was synaptically mediated. Hence, both the expression patterns and the physiology suggest an increasing role for Cx36-containing gap junctions in suppressing RGC firing between waves during postnatal retinal development.

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