Amacrine Cells

Friday, August 27, 2010

Amacrine cells are retina interneurons which interact at the second synaptic level of the vertically direct pathways consisting of the photoreceptor-bipolar-ganglion cell chain. Amacrine cells are responsible for 70% of input to retinal ganglion cells. Bipolar cells, which are responsible for the other 30% of input to retinal ganglia, are regulated by amacrine cells.

Amacrine cells are located at the inner plexiform layer (IPL), the second synaptic retinal layer where bipolar cells and retinal ganglion cells form synapses. There are about 40 different types of amacrine cells, most lacking axons. Like horizontal cells, amacrine cells function laterally affecting the output from bipolar cells, however, their tasks are often more specialized. Each type of amacrine cell connects with a particular type of bipolar cell, and generally has a particular type of neurotransmitter. One such population, AII, 'piggybacks' rod bipolar cells onto the cone bipolar circuitry. It connects rod bipolar cell output with cone bipolar cell input, and from there the signal can travel to the respective ganglion cells. They are classified by the width of their field of connection, which layer(s) of the stratum in the IPL they are in, and by neurotransmitter type. Most are inhibitory using either GABA or glycine as neurotransmitters.

Amacrine cells with extensive dendritic trees are thought to contribute to inhibitory surrounds by feedback at both the bipolar cell, and ganglion cell levels. In this role they are considered to supplement the action of the horizontal cells. Amacrine cells give much more input to M (Magnocellular) ganglion cells than to P (Parvocellular) ganglion cells.