• glutamate receptors;
  • ganglion cells;
  • agmatine;
  • amino acids;
  • NMDA receptors;
  • betaxolol


The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) responses of neurons from within the inner rabbit retina were mapped using a channel permeable cation, 1-amino-4-guanidobutane (agmatine, AGB). Serial sections were subsequently probed with immunoglobulins targeting AGB, glutamate, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and glycine to visualize the NMDA responses of neurochemical subpopulations of neurons. Most inner retinal subpopulations of neurons demonstrated an NMDA concentration-dependent increase in activation. This NMDA-induced activation displayed a distinct pattern, with the most sensitive class to least sensitive class ranking being GC > GABA cAC > GABA/Gly cAC > Gly cAC > GABA dAC (GC, ganglion cells; AC, amacrine cells; c, conventional; d, displaced; Gly, glycine). The variable NMDA response may reflect differences in NMDA receptor subunit disposition or differences in receptor density. In addition to the variable NMDA activation pattern, we found that virtually all ganglion cells (87%) showed NMDA-gated AGB entry, compared with only 58% of amacrine cells. We conclude that a large cohort of amacrine cells do not possess functional NMDA receptors. In addition to most ganglion cells being activated by NMDA, a large subpopulation displayed the highest sensitivity to NMDA application. The functional significance of this finding is that the ganglion cell population will be the first neuronal class to be susceptible to glutamate-induced neurotoxicity mediated through the NMDA receptor. The addition of betaxolol significantly reduced NMDA-mediated AGB entry into most neuronal groups (ganglion cells, GABA, and glycine amacrine cells), with the greatest effect being on ganglion cells. Betaxolol had no significant effect on NMDA-gated entry of AGB on the GABA/Gly amacrine cell population. J. Comp. Neurol. 465:38–56, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.