Amacrine cells of the anuran retina: Morphology, chemical neuroanatomy, and physiology

József Vígh, Tamás Bánvölgyi, Márta Wilhelm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


Amacrine cells are third-order retinal interneurons, projecting their processes into the inner plexiform layer. Historically, they were not considered as neurons first. By the middle of the 20th century, their neuronal nature was confirmed, and their enermous diversity established. Amacrine cells have been most succesfully subdivided into morphological categories based on two parameters: diameter of the dendritic field and ramification pattern in the inner plexiform layer. Works combining anatomy, physiology, and neurochemistry are scarce and in the case of the anuran retina, the situation is even worse. Correlation between morphology, neurochemistry, and physiology is little studied. Here we try to build up a database and pinpoint some of the missing data. Obtaining those could help to better understand retinal function. Sporadic attempts did not make it possible to develop a comprehensive catalog of morphologically distinct amacrine cell types in the anuran retina. The number of morphologically identified amacrine cells currently stands at 16. The list of neurochemically identified distinct cell types can be given as follows: five types GABA-contaning cell types with secondary markers and at least one without; two glycinergic cell types and one interplexiform cell where glycine colocalizes with somatostatin; one dopaminergic amacrine cell and also a variant of this with interplexiform morphology; two types of serotoninergic cells; three NADPHdiaphorase-positive cells, one substance P-positive cell type without identified second marker; one CCK-positive cell type without identified second marker and the calbindin positive cells (at least one but potentially more types). This adds up to 19 cell types, out of which two are interplexiform in character. This is more than that could be identified by purely morphological means. Out of Cajal's original 13 amacrine cell types described in the frog retina, 5 parallel unequivocally with neurons defined by neurochemistry. Three others have one close match each, but their exact identity is uncertain. The remaining amacrine cells have more than one potential matches. At the same time, on one hand the amacrine cell named two-layered by Cajal so far has no match among the neurochemically identified amacrine cells. On the other hand, the interplexiform subtype of the dopaminergic cell, the somatostatin-containing glycinergic interplexiform cell, the starburst cell, and the bistratified neuropeptide Y-immunoreactive cell have no match among Cajal's cells. All in all, the number of known amacrine and interplexiform cells now stands at at least 21 in the anuran retina. Physiological characterization of amacrine cells shows that their general features seem to be rather similar to those described in tiger salamander retina. In Xenopus retina, morphologically and physiologically identified amacrine cells responded to light stimulation most frequently with ON-OFF characteristics. Immunhistochemical identification of the recorded and dye injected cells showed that amacrine cells of the 'same physiological type' might have different morphology. In other words, amacrine cells with different morphology can respond similarly to illumination. Even so, small differences between almost identical responses may reflect that the cell they stem from indeed belongs to different cell types. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-383
Number of pages11
JournalMicroscopy Research and Technique
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2000


  • Amphibians
  • Frogs
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Inner nuclear layer
  • Intracellular recording and filling
  • Neurochemical signatures
  • Silver impregnation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Instrumentation
  • Medical Laboratory Technology

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