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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 25;9(8):e106047. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106047. eCollection 2014.

Rhythmic ganglion cell activity in bleached and blind adult mouse retinas.

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Neurochip Research Group, Natural and Medical Sciences Institute at the University Tübingen, Reutlingen, Germany; Helmholtz Zentrum München, Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt, Neuherberg, Germany.
Neurochip Research Group, Natural and Medical Sciences Institute at the University Tübingen, Reutlingen, Germany.


In retinitis pigmentosa--a degenerative disease which often leads to incurable blindness--the loss of photoreceptors deprives the retina from a continuous excitatory input, the so-called dark current. In rodent models of this disease this deprivation leads to oscillatory electrical activity in the remaining circuitry, which is reflected in the rhythmic spiking of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). It remained unclear, however, if the rhythmic RGC activity is attributed to circuit alterations occurring during photoreceptor degeneration or if rhythmic activity is an intrinsic property of healthy retinal circuitry which is masked by the photoreceptor's dark current. Here we tested these hypotheses by inducing and analysing oscillatory activity in adult healthy (C57/Bl6) and blind mouse retinas (rd10 and rd1). Rhythmic RGC activity in healthy retinas was detected upon partial photoreceptor bleaching using an extracellular high-density multi-transistor-array. The mean fundamental spiking frequency in bleached retinas was 4.3 Hz; close to the RGC rhythm detected in blind rd10 mouse retinas (6.5 Hz). Crosscorrelation analysis of neighbouring wild-type and rd10 RGCs (separation distance <200 µm) reveals synchrony among homologous RGC types and a constant phase shift (∼70 msec) among heterologous cell types (ON versus OFF). The rhythmic RGC spiking in these retinas is driven by a network of presynaptic neurons. The inhibition of glutamatergic ganglion cell input or the inhibition of gap junctional coupling abolished the rhythmic pattern. In rd10 and rd1 retinas the presynaptic network leads to local field potentials, whereas in bleached retinas additional pharmacological disinhibition is required to achieve detectable field potentials. Our results demonstrate that photoreceptor bleaching unmasks oscillatory activity in healthy retinas which shares many features with the functional phenotype detected in rd10 retinas. The quantitative physiological differences advance the understanding of the degeneration process and may guide future rescue strategies.

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