open access


The retinal cone bipolar cells are interneurons which receive inputs from cone photoreceptors and send outputs to retinal ganglion cells. Several subtypes of bipolar cells have been identified by morphology and electrophysiology in the mammalian retina, which convey distinct visual information to higher order neurons in parallel. The neural circuit in the retina not only converts light information to neural . information, but also performs visual information preprocessing that has not yet been fully understood. Recently, it has been revealed that the neural circuits in retinas of higher vertebrates, such as mammals and primates, have various biophysical properties arising from being composed of ionic channels, ionic pumps, and neurotransmitter receptors. Analysis using a mathematical model based on their ionic mechanisms is essential to understand the visual information processing in the retinal neural circuit of the higher vertebrates.

The cones and the bipolar cells respond to continuous variation of light with a graded potential, in an analog manner. Especially, glutamate is continuously released from a cone synapse in the dark and is decreased by hyperpolarization of the cone that receives the light stimulus. The alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) and kainate type ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) of the OFF type bipolar cells (OFF-BCs) exhibit partial or nearly complete desensitization in the sustained presence of glutamate. In the dark, glutamate concentration in the synaptic cleft of the cone pedicle rises to 0.1–0.5 mM.5,6 The baseline glutamate concentration depends on a sustained hyperpolarization of the cone by light. Thus, for understanding the working of the OFF-BCs, it is important to elucidate the mechanisms of synaptic transmission from cones to OFF-BCs via iGluRs, which undergo desensitization in the various background light conditions. Furthermore, there are various kinds of ionic channels in OFF-BCs that mediate membrane potential responses. It is considered that information transmitted from cones to OFF-BCs is modulated by the intrinsic ionic currents. We analyzed how ionic currents of OFF-BCs contribute to the transmission of light responses by developing a mathematical model.