The type-A horizontal cell: GABAergic characteristics and role in development of the outer plexiform layer

Mary Elizabeth Keith-Messersmith, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Morphological analysis of neonatal rabbit retina suggests that the type-A horizontal cell acts as the pioneer cell for development of the OPL. It is the first mature element of the OPL, and it forms the infrastructure upon which the OPL accrues. The role of type-A horizontal cells in influencing postnatal development of the OPL was examined. GABAergic characteristics of the type-A horizontal cell were defined. The type-A horizontal cell was found to possess two more GABAergic characteristics in addition to those previously demonstrated, during a short period in early postnatal development: endogenous stores of GABA and the GABA precursor, glutamate. Lesioning the type-A horizontal cell resulted in their permanent loss in addition to the disappearance of cone terminals and a dramatic increase in rod terminals within the OPL. Thus the type-A cells are not a necessary prerequisite for positioning the OPL in postnatal development, but may be necessary for establishment of the normal photoreceptor mosaic. Since type-A horizontal cells possess a number of GABAergic qualities during the period of cone photoreceptor cell differentiation, and there are reports of GABA's trophic action in other developing neuronal systems; the role that GABAergic type-A horizontal cells play in directing photoreceptor differentiation was examined. Disrupting effects of GABA-A receptor antagonists indicate that type-A horizontal cells act as postsynaptic targets for the growing cone terminals of photoreceptor cells. These trophic or synaptic interactions may involve GABA-A receptors activated by GABA released from horizontal cells. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that type-A horizontal cells act as pioneering cells in directing the postnatal development of the OPL. These studies offer an in depth analysis of the structural and chemical relationship between type-A horizontal cells and other elements of the OPL from which the roles of type-A horizontal cells and the GABA system in development can be defined. They contribute to our knowledge of both structural and GABAergic mechanisms involved in central nervous system development.

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Recommended Citation

Keith-Messersmith, Mary Elizabeth, "The type-A horizontal cell: GABAergic characteristics and role in development of the outer plexiform layer" (1991). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9210714.