• photoreceptor;
  • bipolar cell;
  • horizontal cell;
  • dark-adaptation


Melatonin receptors have been identified in several retinal cell types, including photoreceptors, horizontal cells, amacrine cells, and ganglion cells. Recent reports suggest that melatonin potentiates signaling from rods to inner retinal neurons. However, the organization of the melatonin receptors mediating this action in the outer plexiform layer (OPL) is not clear. To assess melatonin receptor localization in the OPL, double-label confocal immunohistochemistry for Mel1a or Mel1b melatonin receptors was performed in combination with markers for cone photoreceptors (calbindin, XAP-1) and ON bipolar cells (guanine nucleotide binding protein alpha, Goα) on the retina of Xenopus laevis. Both Mel1a and Mel1b receptors were specifically associated with processes contacting the pedicles of cones, but localized to processes from different sets of second-order neurons. Mel1a receptors localized to the large axonal processes of horizontal cells, while Mel1b receptors localized to the dendrites of OFF bipolar cells. Both receptors also localized to third-order amacrine and ganglion cells and their processes in the inner plexiform layer. This study indicates that Mel1a and Mel1b melatonin receptors are expressed specifically in the Xenopus OPL to modulate transmission from cones to horizontal cells and OFF bipolar cells, respectively; they are second-order neurons that predominantly contact ribbon synapses and display OFF responses to light. When combined with results from recent physiological studies, the current results suggest a conserved function for melatonin in enhancing transmission from rods to second-order neurons across species, although the precise mechanisms by which melatonin enhances this transmission are likely to vary in a species-dependent manner. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:1115–1127, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.