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Glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic currents in ganglion cells from isolated retinae of pigmented rats during postnatal development

, : Glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic currents in ganglion cells from isolated retinae of pigmented rats during postnatal development. Developmental Brain Research. 74(1): 98-110

This study was aimed at characterizing the earliest phases of synaptogenesis in the mammalian retina. Spontaneous activity of ganglion cells in the isolated superfused retina was used as an indicator for the functionality of synaptic connections. Retinal ganglion neurons (RGNs) were identified by location of their somata in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) and by their ability to generate large (> 500 pA) voltage-activated sodium currents. Spontaneous spiking was found in many RGNs prior to cell perfusion. Between postnatal day (P) 1 and 18, a total of 195 RGNs was tested for light-induced currents, conductance changes in response to exogenous glutamate (Glu) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and depolarizing or hyperpolarizing synaptic activity. The vast majority of the material was derived from RGNs at day P5. Whole-cell ion currents were always sampled at somatic sites, using either conventional or perforated patch whole-cell recordings. On day P5, 5% of tested RGNs (n = 73) were already responsive to light stimulation. A higher percentage of cells (23%, n = 187) generated spontaneous depolarizing currents that were regarded as glutamatergic excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs), since (1) they were blocked by Glu antagonists, (2) they conformed to the Na+/Cs+ equilibrium potential, (3) and they displayed a time course characteristic of glutamatergic EPSCs. The mean EPSC amplitude was 19.0 pA (S.D. 11.83 pA). Amplitude distributions were fitted by multiple Gaussian equations rendering a quantal size of 6.6 to 9.1 pA at a holding voltage (Vh) of -70 mV (driving force about 70 mV). Spontaneous EPSCs were never observed under condition of Ca(2+)-free solutions, but they persisted in the presence of tetrodotoxin. Bath application of quisqualate (500 microM) consistently increased EPSC frequencies. In contrast to the relatively high percentage of RGNs generating spontaneous EPSCs, very few RGNs at P5 (3%, n = 187) displayed inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs), although by that time all tested RGNs (n = 14) were responsive to both exogenous Glu and GABA. These results indicate that in the postnatal rat retina development of excitatory synapses precedes the maturation of inhibitory afferents. Excitatory inputs to RGNs were to some extent functional before the animals opened their eyes. Glutamatergic synaptic activity may, thus, play an important role in shaping visual connections in the absence of visual experience.


PMID: 8104743

DOI: 10.1016/0165-3806(93)90088-r

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