Photoreceptor degenerations can trigger morphological alterations in second-order neurons, however, the functional implications of such changes are not well known. We conducted a longitudinal study, using whole-cell patch-clamp, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy to correlate physiological with anatomical changes in bipolar cells of the rd10 mouse - a model of autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa. Rod bipolar cells (RBCs) showed progressive changes in mGluR6-induced currents with advancing rod photoreceptor degeneration. Significant changes in response amplitude and kinetics were observed as early as postnatal day (P)20, and by P45 the response amplitudes were reduced by 91%, and then remained relatively stable until 6 months. These functional changes correlated with the loss of rod photoreceptors and mGluR6 receptor expression. Moreover, we showed that RBCs make transient ectopic connections with cones during progression of the disease. At P45, ON-cone bipolar cells (ON-CBCs) retain mGluR6 responses for longer periods than the RBCs, but by about 6 months these cells also strongly downregulate mGluR6 expression. We propose that the relative longevity of mGluR6 responses in CBCs is due to the slower loss of the cones. In contrast, ionotropic glutamate receptor expression and function in OFF-CBCs remains normal at 6 months despite the loss of synaptic input from cones. Thus, glutamate receptor expression is differentially regulated in bipolar cells, with the metabotropic receptors being absolutely dependent on synaptic input. These findings define the temporal window over which bipolar cells may be receptive to photoreceptor repair or replacement.
- Synaptic remodelling
ASJC Scopus subject areas