Computational study of the cone-horizontal cell feedback mechanism in the outer-plexiform layer of cat retina
In vertebrate outer retina, changes in the membrane potential of horizontal cells affect the calcium influx and glutamate release of cone photoreceptors via a negative feedback. This feedback has a number of important physiological consequences. One is called background-induced flicker enhancement (BIFE) in which the onset of dim background enhances the center flicker response of horizontal cells. The underlying mechanism for the feedback is still unclear but competing hypotheses have been proposed. One is the GABA hypothesis, which states that the feedback is mediated by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter released from horizontal cells. Another is the ephaptic hypothesis, which contends that the feedback is non-GABAergic and is achieved through the modulation of electrical potential in the intersynaptic cleft between cones and horizontal cells. In this study, a continuum spine model of the cone-horizontal cell synaptic circuitry is formulated. This model, a partial differential equation system, incorporates both the GABA and ephaptic feedback mechanisms. Simulation results, in comparison with experiments, indicate that the ephaptic mechanism is necessary in order for the model to capture the major spatial and temporal dynamics of the BIFE effect. In addition, simulations indicate that the GABA mechanism may play some minor modulation role.