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Microcirculation. 2006 Jul-Aug;13(5):353-63.

Electrotonic transmission within pericyte-containing retinal microvessels.

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Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105, USA.



Little is known about the electrotonic architecture of the pericyte-containing retinal microvasculature. Here, the authors focus on the cell-to-cell transmission of hyperpolarization, which can induce abluminal pericytes to relax and lumens to dilate.


With perforated-patch pipettes, the authors monitored the membrane potentials and ionic currents of pairs of pericytes located on freshly isolated rat retinal microvessels. Voltage changes were induced by administering electrical stimuli into pericytes, miniperfusing the KATP channel opener pinacidil, or using oxotremorine to activate chloride channels.


Suggestive of extensive cell-to-cell communication, spontaneous voltage changes were strikingly similar in widely separated pericytes. In addition, injection of current into one of a pair of sampled pericytes always elicited a voltage response in the other sampled pericyte; the gap junction uncoupler, heptanol, blocked this transmission. In the dual recordings, hyperpolarization spreading from a current-injected pericyte decayed approximately 40% within 100 microm. In contrast, pinacidil-induced hyperpolarizations diminished by only approximately 2% in 100 microm. Depolarizations also appeared to spread with similar transmission efficacies.


Based on the experiments, the authors propose that key features of the electrotonic architecture of retinal microvessels include highly efficient cell-to-cell communication within the endothelium and relatively inefficient transmission at pericyte/endothelial junctions. Thus, the endothelium is likely to provide an efficient pathway that functionally links contractile pericytes and thereby, serves to coordinate the vasomotor response of a retinal capillary.

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