Dopamine-accumulating retinal neurons revealed by in vitro fluorescence display a unique morphology

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Science  27 May 1988:
Vol. 240, Issue 4856, pp. 1196-1198
DOI: 10.1126/science.3375811


Dopamine is the principal catecholamine neurotransmitter in the vertebrate retina. The shape of retinal neurons that accumulate dopamine has been demonstrated in an in vitro preparation of cat retina. This was achieved by the discovery that the combined uptake of dopamine and the indoleaminergic transmitter analog 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine leads to an intense, catecholamine-like fluorescence in the cell bodies and processes of presumed dopaminergic amacrine cells in the living retina. This fluorescence served as an in vitro marker for these cells, and their detailed morphology was analyzed after intracellular injection of horseradish peroxidase under direct microscopic control. The horseradish peroxidase-filled cells show an unprecedented neuronal morphology: each cell gives rise to multiple, axon-like processes that arise from, and extend for millimeters beyond, the dendritic tree. The unique structure of this type of amacrine cell suggests a function for dopamine in long-range lateral interactions in the inner plexiform layer.