Key points: Direction selectivity has been widely studied as an example of a complex neural computation. Directional GABA release from starburst amacrine cells (SBACs) is critical for generating directional signals in direction-selective ganglion cells. The mechanisms producing the directional release remain unclear. For SBACs, ordered distribution of sustained and transient bipolar cell inputs along the dendrites is proposed to generate directional GABA release. This study tests whether this hypothesis applies to ON-type SBACs. EPSCs activated at proximal and distal dendritic locations have the same time course. Therefore, the ordered arrangement of inputs from bipolar cells with different kinetic properties cannot be responsible for generating directional GABA release from ON-type SBACs. Abstract: Direction selectivity in the retina relies critically on directionally asymmetric GABA release from the dendritic tips of starburst amacrine cells (SBACs). GABA release from each radially directed dendrite is larger for motion outward from the soma toward the dendritic tips than for motion inwards toward the soma. The biophysical mechanisms generating these directional signals remain controversial. A model based on electron-microscopic reconstructions of the mouse retina proposed that an ordered arrangement of kinetically distinct bipolar cell inputs to ON- and OFF-type SBACs could produce directional GABA release. We tested this prediction by measuring the time course of EPSCs in ON-type SBACs in the mouse retina, activated by proximal and distal light stimulation. Contrary to the prediction, the kinetics of the excitatory inputs were independent of dendritic location. Computer simulations based on 3D reconstructions of SBAC dendrites demonstrated that the response kinetics of distal inputs were not significantly altered by dendritic filtering. These direct physiological measurements, do not support the hypothesis that directional signals in SBACs arise from the ordered arrangement of kinetically distinct bipolar cell inputs.
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