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J Neurosci. 1984 Dec;4(12):2920-38.

Microcircuitry of bipolar cells in cat retina.


We have studied 15 bipolar neurons from a small patch (14 X 120 micron) of adult cat retina located within the area centralis. From electron micrographs of 189 serial ultrathin sections, the axon of each bipolar cell was substantially reconstructed with its synaptic inputs and outputs by means of a computer-controlled reconstruction system. Based on differences in stratification, cytology, and synaptic connections, we identified eight different cell types among the group of 15 neurons: one type of rod bipolar and seven types of cone bipolar neurons. These types correspond to those identified by the Golgi method and by intracellular recording. Those bipolar cell types for which we reconstructed three or four examples were extremely regular in form, size, and cytology, and also in the quantitative details of their synaptic connections. They appeared quite as specific in these respects as invertebrate "identified" neurons. The synaptic patterns observed for each type of bipolar neuron were complex but may be summarized as follows: the rod bipolar axon ended in sublamina b of the inner plexiform layer and provided major input to the AII amacrine cell. The axons of three types of cone bipolar cells also terminated in sublamina b and provided contacts to dendrites of on-beta and other ganglion cells. All three types, but especially the Cb1, received gap junction contacts from the AII amacrine cell. Axons of four types of cone bipolar cells terminated in sublamina a of the inner plexiform layer and contacted dendrites of off-beta and other ganglion cells. One of these cone bipolar cell types, CBa1, made reciprocal chemical contacts with the lobular appendage of the AII amacrine cell. These results show that the pattern of cone bipolar cell input to beta (X) and probably alpha (Y) ganglion cells is substantially more complex than had been suspected. At least two types of cone bipolar contribute to each type of ganglion cell where only a single type had been anticipated. In addition, many of the cone bipolar cell pathways in the inner plexiform layer are available to the rod system, since at least four types of cone bipolar receive electrical or chemical inputs from the AII amacrine cell. This may help to explain why, in a retina where rods far outnumber the cones, there should be so many types of cone bipolar cells.

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