Light triggers expression of philanthotoxin-insensitive Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors in the developing rat retina


Corresponding author D. Bowie: Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, McIntyre Medical Sciences Building, Room 1317, McGill University, 3655 Promenade Sir William Osler, Montreal, Québec, Canada H3A 1Y6. Email:


Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors (AMPARs) are expressed throughout the adult CNS but yet their role in development is poorly understood. In the developing retina, most investigations have focused on Ca2+ influx through NMDARs in promoting synapse maturation and not on AMPARs. However, NMDARs are absent from many retinal cells suggesting that other Ca2+-permeable glutamate receptors may be important to consider. Here we show that inhibitory horizontal and AII amacrine cells lack NMDARs but express Ca2+-permeable AMPARs. Before eye-opening, AMPARs were fully blocked by philanthotoxin (PhTX), a selective antagonist of Ca2+-permeable AMPARs. After eye-opening, however, a subpopulation of Ca2+-permeable AMPARs were unexpectedly PhTX resistant. Furthermore, Joro spider toxin (JSTX) and IEM-1460 also failed to antagonize, demonstrating that this novel pharmacology is shared by several AMPAR channel blockers. Interestingly, PhTX-insensitive AMPARs failed to express in retinae from dark-reared animals demonstrating that light entering the eye triggers their expression. Eye-opening coincides with the consolidation of inhibitory cell connections suggesting that the developmental switch to a Ca2+-permeable AMPAR with novel pharmacology may be critical to synapse maturation in the mammalian retina.