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J Gen Physiol. 1989 Jan;93(1):101-22.

B-wave of the electroretinogram. A reflection of ON bipolar cell activity.

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Department of Biophysical Sciences, State University of New York, School of Medicine, Buffalo 14214.


Light-evoked intraretinal field potentials (electroretinogram, ERG) have been measured simultaneously with extracellular potassium fluxes in the amphibian retina. The application of highly selective pharmacologic agents permitted us to functionally isolate various classes of retinal neurons. It was found that: (a) application of APB (2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate), which has previously been shown to selectively abolish the light responsiveness of ON bipolar cells, causes a concomitant loss of the ERG b-wave and ON potassium flux. (b) Conversely, PDA (cis 2,3-piperidine-dicarboxylic acid) or KYN (kynurenic acid), which have been reported to suppress the light responses of OFF bipolar, horizontal, and third-order retinal neurons, causes a loss of the ERG d-wave as well as OFF potassium fluxes. The b-wave and ON potassium fluxes, however, remain undiminished. (c) NMA (N-methyl-DL-aspartate) or GLY (glycine), which have been reported to suppress the responses of third-order neurons, do not diminish the b- or d-waves, nor the potassium fluxes at ON or OFF. This leads to the conclusion that the b-wave of the ERG is a result of the light-evoked depolarization of the ON bipolar neurons. This experimental approach has resulted in two further conclusions: (a) that the d-wave is an expression of OFF bipolar and/or horizontal cell depolarization at the termination of illumination and (b) that light-induced increases in extracellular potassium concentration in both the inner (proximal) and outer (distal) retina are the result of ON bipolar cell depolarization.

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