Electrical synapses between AII amacrine cells in the retina: Function and modulation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Adaptation enables the visual system to operate across a large range of background light intensities. There is evidence that one component of this adaptation is mediated by modulation of gap junctions functioning as electrical synapses, thereby tuning and functionally optimizing specific retinal microcircuits and pathways. The AII amacrine cell is an interneuron found in most mammalian retinas and plays a crucial role for processing visual signals in starlight, twilight and daylight. AII amacrine cells are connected to each other by gap junctions, potentially serving as a substrate for signal averaging and noise reduction, and there is evidence that the strength of electrical coupling is modulated by the level of background light. Whereas there is extensive knowledge concerning the retinal microcircuits that involve the AII amacrine cell, it is less clear which signaling pathways and intracellular transduction mechanisms are involved in modulating the junctional conductance between electrically coupled AII amacrine cells. Here we review the current state of knowledge, with a focus on the recent evidence that suggests that the modulatory control involves activity-dependent changes in the phosphorylation of the gap junction channels between AII amacrine cells, potentially linked to their intracellular Ca2+ dynamics.