The ganglion cell layer (GCL) of the mammalian retina contains a large number of neurons called displaced amacrine cells (DACs) that do not project to the optic nerve. However, with the exception of the rabbit starburst amacrine cell little is known regarding the function of this large population due to the difficulty experienced in making physiological recordings from these neurons. We have overcome these difficulties and have used whole-cell patch-clamp techniques to examine the intrinsic membrane properties of DACs in the ferret retina. Our results indicate a large degree of diversity in their intrinsic membrane properties. In response to maintained depolarizing current injection, DACs responded with graded depolarization or by eliciting either transient or sustained bursts of spiking activity. At the resting membrane potential, 10% of the DACs generated spontaneous spikes in either an apparently random manner or at the peak of intrinsic waves of depolarization. The resting membrane activity of the remaining DACs recorded could be classified into three groups that were quiescent (28%), had robust uncorrelated synaptic activity (30%), or underwent slow waves of depolarization (42%). Diversity was also revealed in the membrane currents recorded in voltage-clamp where some DACs were quiescent (19%), or exhibited robust nonrhythmic synaptic events (42%). The remaining DACs exhibited waves of oscillatory activity (39%), characterized by either rhythmic bursts of synaptic events (17%) or slow inward currents (22%). Bath application of 50 μM biccuculine or 150 μM picrotoxin had no effect on the waves of activity, however, the gap junction blocker, carbenoxolone (100 μm), blocked both oscillatory patterns. By including Lucifer yellow and biocytin in the recording pipette, it was possible to determine the morphology of recorded neurons and group them based on dendritic extent as small-, medium-, or large-field DACs. There were few relationships between these morphologically defined groups and their intrinsic membrane properties. The present study provides the first in-depth examination of the intrinsic membrane properties of DACs in the ferret retina and provides new insights into the potential roles these neurons play in the processing of visual information in the mammalian retina.
- Displaced amacrine cells
- Gap junctions
- Intrinsic membrane properties
ASJC Scopus subject areas