[3H]Serotonin is accumulated by a specific set of amacrine cells in the rabbit retina. These cells also accumulate the neurotoxin, 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine, and show signs of necrosis within 4 h of in vivo exposure to the drug. Biochemical analysis of [3H]serotonin uptake reveal a sodium- and temperature-dependent, high affinity uptake system with a Km of 0.94 microM and Vmax of 1.08 pmol/mg protein/min. [3H]Tryptophan is also accumulated in rabbit retinal homogenates by a high affinity process. Accumulated [3H]serotonin is released in response to potassium-induced depolarization of intact, isolated retinas. In vitro binding studies of rabbit retinal homogenate membranes demonstrate specific sets of binding sites with characteristics of the postsynaptic serotonin receptor. These data strongly suggest that rabbit retina contains virtually all of the molecular components required for a functional serotonergic neurotransmitter system. The only significant difference between the serotonin system in rabbit retina and that in the well-established serotonin transmitter systems in nonmammalin retinas and in brains of most species is the relatively low concentration of endogenous serotonin in rabbit retinas, as demonstrated by high-performance liquid chromatography, histofluorescence, or immunocytochemistry.

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