We have identified a putative cGMP-gated cation conductance in rat retinal ganglion cells. Both in situ hybridization and polymerase chain reaction amplification detected transcripts in ganglion cells that were highly homologous to the cGMP-gated cation channel expressed in rod photoreceptors. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings detected a current stimulated by cGMP due to activation of nonselective cation channels. This current had a reversal potential near 0 mV, showed some outward rectification, and could be blocked by Cd2+. The current could also be activated by a phosphodiesterase inhibitor and the nitric oxide donors sodium nitroprusside and S-nitrosocysteine. We propose that nitric oxide released from an identified subpopulation of amacrine cells may activate this channel to modulate ganglion cell activity.
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