Kinetics of inhibitory feedback from horizontal cells to photoreceptors: Implications for an ephaptic mechanism

Ted J. Warren, Matthew J. Van Hook, Daniel Tranchina, Wallace B. Thoreson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Inhibitory feedback from horizontal cells (HCs) to cones generates center-surround receptive fields and color opponency in the retina. Mechanisms of HC feedback remain unsettled, but one hypothesis proposes that an ephaptic mechanism may alter the extracellular electrical field surrounding photoreceptor synaptic terminals, thereby altering Ca 2 channel activity and photoreceptor output. An ephaptic voltage change produced by current flowing through open channels in the HC membrane should occur with no delay. To test for this mechanism, we measured kinetics of inhibitory feedback currents in Ambystoma tigrinum cones and rods evoked by hyperpolarizing steps applied to synaptically coupled HCs. Hyperpolarizing HCs stimulated inward feedback currents in cones that averaged 8-9 pA and exhibited a biexponential time course with time constants averaging 14-17 ms and 120-220 ms. Measurement of feedback-current kinetics was limited by three factors: (1) HC voltage-clamp speed, (2) cone voltage-clamp speed, and (3) kinetics of Ca 2 channel activation or deactivation in the photoreceptor terminal. These factors totaled ~4-5 ms in cones meaning that the true fast time constants for HC-to-cone feedback currents were 9-13 ms, slower than expected for ephaptic voltage changes. We also compared speed of feedback to feedforward glutamate release measured at the same cone/HC synapses and found a latency for feedback of 11-14 ms. Inhibitory feedback from HCs to rods was also significantly slower than either measurement kinetics or feedforward release. The finding that inhibitory feedback from HCs to photoreceptors involves a significant delay indicates that it is not due to previously proposed ephaptic mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10075-10088
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 28 2016


  • Ephapse
  • Horizontal cell
  • L-type calcium current
  • Lateral inhibition
  • Photoreceptor
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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