Abundance and ultrastructural diversity of neuronal gap junctions in the OFF and ON sublaminae of the inner plexiform layer of rat and mouse retina

N. Kamasawa, C. S. Furman, K. G.V. Davidson, J. A. Sampson, A. R. Magnie, B. R. Gebhardt, M. Kamasawa, T. Yasumura, J. R. Zumbrunnen, G. E. Pickard, J. I. Nagy, J. E. Rash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Neuronal gap junctions are abundant in both outer and inner plexiform layers of the mammalian retina. In the inner plexiform layer (IPL), ultrastructurally-identified gap junctions were reported primarily in the functionally-defined and anatomically-distinct ON sublamina, with few reported in the OFF sublamina. We used freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling and confocal microscopy to quantitatively analyze the morphologies and distributions of neuronal gap junctions in the IPL of adult rat and mouse retina. Under "baseline" conditions (photopic illumination/general anesthesia), 649 neuronal gap junctions immunogold-labeled for connexin36 were identified in rat IPL, of which 375 were photomapped to OFF vs. ON sublaminae. In contrast to previous reports, the volume-density of gap junctions was equally abundant in both sublaminae. Five distinctive morphologies of gap junctions were identified: conventional crystalline and non-crystalline "plaques" (71% and 3%), plus unusual "string" (14%), "ribbon" (7%) and "reticular" (2%) forms. Plaque and reticular gap junctions were distributed throughout the IPL. However, string and ribbon gap junctions were restricted to the OFF sublamina, where they represented 48% of gap junctions in that layer. In string and ribbon junctions, curvilinear strands of connexons were dispersed over 5 to 20 times the area of conventional plaques having equal numbers of connexons. To define morphologies of gap junctions under different light-adaptation conditions, we examined an additional 1150 gap junctions from rats and mice prepared after 30 min of photopic, mesopic and scotopic illumination, with and without general anesthesia. Under these conditions, string and ribbon gap junctions remained abundant in the OFF sublamina and absent in the ON sublamina. Abundant gap junctions in the OFF sublamina of these two rodents with rod-dominant retinas revealed previously-undescribed but extensive pathways for inter-neuronal communication; and the wide dispersion of connexons in string and ribbon gap junctions suggests unique structural features of gap junctional coupling in the OFF vs. ON sublamina.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1093-1117
Number of pages25
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 3 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cx36
  • FRIL
  • confocal immunocytochemistry
  • connexin36
  • freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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