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Science. 1996 May 24;272(5265):1182-7.

Requirement for cholinergic synaptic transmission in the propagation of spontaneous retinal waves.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 94720-3200, USA.


Highly correlated neural activity in the form of spontaneous waves of action potentials is present in the developing retina weeks before vision. Optical imaging revealed that these waves consist of spatially restricted domains of activity that form a mosaic pattern over the entire retinal ganglion cell layer. Whole-cell recordings indicate that wave generation requires synaptic activation of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on ganglion cells. The only cholinergic cells in these immature retinas are a uniformly distributed bistratified population of amacrine cells, as assessed by antibodies to choline acetyltransferase. The results indicate that the major source of synaptic input to retinal ganglion cells is a system of cholinergic amacrine cells, whose activity is required for wave propagation in the developing retina.

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