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J Physiol. 2010 Nov 1;588(Pt 21):4145-63. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.193268.

Light increases the gap junctional coupling of retinal ganglion cells.

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Department of Physiology & Neuroscience, New York University School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.


We examined the effect of light adaptation on the gap junctional coupling of α-ganglion cells (α-GCs) in rabbit and mouse retinas. We assayed changes in coupling by measuring parameters of tracer coupling following injection of α-GCs with Neurobiotin and the concerted spike activity of α-GC neighbours under dark- and light-adapted conditions. We found that light adaptation using mesopic or photopic background lights resulted in a dramatic increase in the labelling intensity, number, and spatial extent of ganglion and amacrine cells coupled to OFF α-GCs when compared to levels seen under dark adaptation. While this augmentation of coupling by light did not produce an increase in the concerted spontaneous activity of OFF α-GC neighbours, it did significantly increase correlated light-evoked spiking. This was seen as an increase in the number of correlated spikes for α-GC neighbours and an extension of correlations to second-tier neighbours that was not seen under dark-adapted conditions. Pharmacological studies in the rabbit retina indicated that dopamine mediates the observed changes in coupling by differentially activating D1 and D2 receptors under different adaptation states. In this scheme, activation of dopamine D1 receptors following light exposure triggers cAMP-mediated intracellular pathways resulting in an increase in gap junctional conductance. Overall, our results indicate that as we move from night to day there is an enhanced electrical coupling between α-GCs, thereby increasing the concerted activity believed to strengthen the capacity and efficiency of information flow across the optic nerve.

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