Gap junctional coupling in the vertebrate retina: Variations on one theme?

B. Völgyi, Tamás Kovács-öller, Tamás Atlasz, M. Wilhelm, R. Gábriel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Gap junctions connect cells in the bodies of all multicellular organisms, forming either homologous or heterologous (i.e. established between identical or different cell types, respectively) cell-to-cell contacts by utilizing identical (homotypic) or different (heterotypic) connexin protein subunits. Gap junctions in the nervous system serve electrical signaling between neurons, thus they are also called electrical synapses. Such electrical synapses are particularly abundant in the vertebrate retina where they are specialized to form links between neurons as well as glial cells. In this article, we summarize recent findings on retinal cell-to-cell coupling in different vertebrates and identify general features in the light of the evergrowing body of data. In particular, we describe and discuss tracer coupling patterns, connexin proteins, junctional conductances and modulatory processes. This multispecies comparison serves to point out that most features are remarkably conserved across the vertebrate classes, including (i) the cell types connected via electrical synapses; (ii) the connexin makeup and the conductance of each cell-to-cell contact; (iii) the probable function of each gap junction in retinal circuitry; (iv) the fact that gap junctions underlie both electrical and/or tracer coupling between glial cells. These pan-vertebrate features thus demonstrate that retinal gap junctions have changed little during the over 500 million years of vertebrate evolution. Therefore, the fundamental architecture of electrically coupled retinal circuits seems as old as the retina itself, indicating that gap junctions deeply incorporated in retinal wiring from the very beginning of the eye formation of vertebrates. In addition to hard wiring provided by fast synaptic transmitter-releasing neurons and soft wiring contributed by peptidergic, aminergic and purinergic systems, electrical coupling may serve as the 'skeleton' of lateral processing, enabling important functions such as signal averaging and synchronization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
Volume34
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Fingerprint

Vertebrates
Retina
Gap Junctions
Electrical Synapses
Connexins
Neurons
Neuroglia
Protein Subunits
Skeleton
Nervous System
Proteins

Keywords

  • Conductance
  • Connexin
  • Electrical synapse
  • Phylogenesis
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology

Cite this

Gap junctional coupling in the vertebrate retina : Variations on one theme? / Völgyi, B.; Kovács-öller, Tamás; Atlasz, Tamás; Wilhelm, M.; Gábriel, R.

In: Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, Vol. 34, 05.2013, p. 1-18.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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