Amacrine cells are thought to be a major locus for mechanisms of light adaptation and contrast enhancement in the retina. However, the potential for plasticity in their AMPA receptor currents remains largely unknown. Using paired patch-clamp recordings between bipolar cell terminals and amacrine cells, we have simultaneously measured presynaptic membrane capacitance changes and EPSCs. Repetitive bipolar cell depolarizations, designed to maintain the same amount of exocytosis, nevertheless significantly potentiated evoked EPSCs in a subpopulation of amacrine cells. Likewise, repetitive iontophoresis (or puffs) of glutamate (or AMPA) onto the dendrites of amacrine cells also significantly potentiated evoked currents and [Ca2+]i rises. However, strong postsynaptic Ca2+ buffering with BAPTA abolished the potentiation and selective antagonists of Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors also blocked the potentiation of AMPA-mediated currents. Together these results suggest that Ca2+ influx via Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors can elicit a rapid form of postsynaptic plasticity in a subgroup of amacrine cell dendrites.
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