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Exp Eye Res. 2012 Jan;94(1):71-84. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2011.11.008. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Functional activation of glutamate ionotropic receptors in the human peripheral retina.

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Department of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand.


Glutamate is the major neurotransmitter in the vertebrate retina. Neurons involved in the glutamate pathway express α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA), kainic acid (KA) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Functional characterization of these ionotropic glutamate receptors can be achieved by using a cation channel permeating probe named agmatine (1-amino-4-guanidobutane; AGB). Retinal mapping using this guanidinium analog has certain advantages including the immunocytochemical identification of a whole population of neurons expressing functional glutamate gated receptor channels. We have extended AGB studies into the functionality of ionotropic receptors in peripheral aged human retina to serve as a comparison for functional analysis of retinopathies such as retinal detachment. We probed the human retina with AGB after activation with AMPA, KA and NMDA. The results showed patterns of AGB entry into neurons consistent with those previously observed in subunit localization studies in adult mammalian retinae including primates. Application of 30 μM AMPA activated receptors in virtually all calretinin immunoreactive AII amacrine cells in the mid-peripheral human retina. About half of the AII amacrine cells showed AGB permeation after incubation with 50 μM KA. Some bipolar cells including DB3 OFF bipolar cells displayed functional KA receptors. Colocalization of AGB with parvalbumin labeled horizontal cells revealed functional KA and AMPA receptors with no responsiveness to NMDA activation. NMDA activation resulted in AGB labeling of ganglion cells and amacrine cells. The present study provides a description of functional ionotropic glutamate receptors in the aged mid-peripheral human retina.

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