, Volume 106, Issue 1, pp 83-87

Metabotropic glutamate receptors in vertebrate retina

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Abstract

A striking feature in visual information processing is the fact that the primary signaling elements, the rods and the cones, are hyperpolarized and thus inhibited by light, the physiological stimulus. Light effectively shuts down neurotransmitter release by the photoreceptors onto the second-order retinal neurons. It has long been recognized that a sign-inverting synapse utilizing a specialized receptor is required to translate the inhibitory photoreceptor response into an excitatory signal suitable for transmission to the visual cortex. Although the first clues to the underlying mechanism were discovered in the 1970s, the actual receptor initiating the sign inversion in the ON bipolar cells was only identified in 1993. This receptor was found to belong to the family of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and is referred to as mGluR6. Subsequent studies have focused on the intracellular transduction pathway allowing mGluR6 to mediate a hyperpolarizing response to the neurotransmitter glutamate. The mGluR family of receptors comprises seven additional members, all of which are also found in retinal cells. Their function is to modulate rather than to transmit visual signals. In this brief overview, I describe the basic properties of mGluRs and summarize their roles in retinal signaling.