The large receptive fields of retinal horizontal cells result primarily from extensive intercellular coupling via gap (electrical) junctions; thus, the extent of the receptive field provides an index of the degree to which the cells are electrically coupled. For rod-driven horizontal cells in the dark-adapted skate retina, a space constant of 1.18 +/- 0.15 mm (SD) was obtained from measurements with a moving slit stimulus, and a comparable value (1.43 +/- 0.55 mm) was obtained with variation in spot diameter. These values, and the extensive spread of a fluorescent dye (Lucifer Yellow) from the site of injection to neighboring cells, indicate that the horizontal cells of the all-rod retina of skate are well coupled electrically. Neither the receptive field properties nor the gap-junctional features of skate horizontal cells were influenced by the adaptive state of the retina: (a) the receptive field organization was unaffected by light adaptation, (b) similar dye coupling was seen in both dark- and light-adapted retinae, and (c) no significant differences were found in the gap-junctional particle densities measured in dark- and light-adapted retinas, i.e., 3,184 +/- 286/microns 2 (n = 8) and 3,073 +/- 494/microns 2 (n = 11), respectively. Moreover, the receptive fields of skate horizontal cells were not altered by either dopamine, glycine, GABA, or the GABAA receptor antagonists bicuculline and picrotoxin. We conclude that the rod-driven horizontal cells of the skate retina are tightly coupled to one another, and that the coupling is not affected by photic and pharmacological conditions that are known to modulate intercellular coupling between cone-driven horizontal cells in other species.

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