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Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 149187, 23 pages
Review Article

Ionotropic GABA Receptors and Distal Retinal ON and OFF Responses

Department of Physiology, Medical Faculty, Medical University, 1431 Sofia, Bulgaria

Received 11 February 2014; Revised 24 April 2014; Accepted 27 May 2014; Published 20 July 2014

Academic Editor: Marco Sassoe-Pognetto

Copyright © 2014 E. Popova. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the vertebrate retina, visual signals are segregated into parallel ON and OFF pathways, which provide information for light increments and decrements. The segregation is first evident at the level of the ON and OFF bipolar cells in distal retina. The activity of large populations of ON and OFF bipolar cells is reflected in the b- and d-waves of the diffuse electroretinogram (ERG). The role of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), acting through ionotropic GABA receptors in shaping the ON and OFF responses in distal retina, is a matter of debate. This review summarized current knowledge about the types of the GABAergic neurons and ionotropic GABA receptors in the retina as well as the effects of GABA and specific GABAA and GABAC receptor antagonists on the activity of the ON and OFF bipolar cells in both nonmammalian and mammalian retina. Special emphasis is put on the effects on b- and d-waves of the ERG as a useful tool for assessment of the overall function of distal retinal ON and OFF channels. The role of GABAergic system in establishing the ON-OFF asymmetry concerning the time course and absolute and relative sensitivity of the ERG responses under different conditions of light adaptation in amphibian retina is also discussed.