A light microscope study using postembedding immunocytochemistry techniques to demonstrate the common neurotransmitter candidates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glycine, glutamate, and tyrosine hydroxylase for dopamine has been done on human retina. By using an antiserum to GABA, we found GABA-immunoreactivity (GABA-IR) to be primarily in amacrine cells lying in the inner nuclear layer (INL) or displaced to the ganglion cell layer (GCL). A few stained cells in the INL, which are probably interplexiform cells, were observed to project thin processes towards the outer plexiform layer (OPL). There were heavily stained bands of immunoreactivity in strata 1, 3 and 5 of the inner plexiform layer (IPL). An occasional ganglion cell was also GABA-IR.
By using an antiserum to glycine, stained cells were observed at all levels of the INL. Most of these were amacrines, but a few bipolar cells were also glycine-IR. Displaced amacrine cells and large-bodied cells, which are probably ganglion cells, stained in the GCL. The bipolar cells that stained appeared to include both diffuse and midget varieties. The AII amacrine cell of the rod pathway was clearly stained in our material but at a lower intensity than two other amacrine cell types tentatively identified as A8 and A3 or A4. Again, there was stratified staining in the IPL, with strata 2 and 4 being most immunoreactive.
An antiserum to glutamate revealed that most of the neurons of the vertical pathways in the human retina were glutamate-IR. Rod and cone photoreceptor synaptic endings labeled as did the majority of bipolar and ganglion cells. The rod photoreceptor stained more heavily than the cone photoreceptor in our material. While both midget and diffuse cone bipolar cell types were clearly glutamate-IR, rod bipolars were not noticeably stained. The most strongly staining glutamate-IR processes of the IPL lay in the outer half, in sublamina a.
The antiserum to tyrosine hydroxylase (TOH) revealed two different amacrine cell types. Strongly immunoreactive cells (TOH1) had their cell bodies in the INL and their dendrites ramified in a dense plexus in stratum 1 of the IPL. Fine processes arising from their cell bodies or from the stratum 1 plexus passed through the INL to reach the OPL but did not produce long-ranging ramifications therein. The less immunoreactive amacrines (TOH2) lay in the INL, the center of the IPL or the GCL and emitted thick dendrites that were monostratified in stratum 3 of the IPL.