Push-pull model of the primate photopic electroretinogram: A role for hyperpolarizing neurons in shaping the b-wave

Paul A. Sieving, Koichiro Murayama, Franklin Naarendorp

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332 Scopus citations


Existing models of the primate photopic electroretinogram (ERG) attribute the light-adapted b-wave to activity of depolarizing bipolar cells (DBCs), mediated through a release of potassium that is monitored by Müller cells. However, possible ERG contributions from OFF-bipolar cells (HBCs) and horizontal cells (HzCs) have not been explored. We examined the contribution of these hyperpolarizing second-order retinal cells to the photopic ERG of monkey by applying glutamate analogs to suppress photoreceptor transmission selectively to HBC/HzCs vs.DBCs. ERGs of Macaca monkeys were recorded at the cornea before and after intravitreal injection of drugs. Photopic responses were elicited by bright 200-220 ms flashes on a steady background of 3. 3 log scotopic troland to suppress rod ERG components. 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (APB), which blocks DBC light responses, abolished the photopic b-wave and indicated that DBC activity is requisite for photopic b-wave production. However, applying cis-, 2,3-piperidine dicarboxylic acid (PDA) and kynurenic acid (KYN), to suppress HBCs/HzCs and third-order neurons, revealed a novel ERG response that was entirely positive and was sustained for the duration of the flash. The normally phasic b-wave was subsumed into this new response. Applying n-methyl-dl-aspartate (NMA) did not replicate the PDA+KYN effect, indicating that third-order retinal cells are not involved. This suggests that HBC/HzC activity is critical for shaping the phasic b-wave. Components attributable to depolarizing vs. hyperpolarizing cells were separated by subtracting waveforms after each drug from responses immediately before. This analysis indicated that DBCs and HBC/HzCs each can produce large but opposing field potentials that nearly cancel and that normally leave only the residual phasic b-wave response in the photopic ERG. Latency of the DBC component was 5-9 ms slower than the HBC/HzC component. However, once activated, the DBC component had a steeper slope. This resembles properties known for the two types of cone synapses in lower species, in which the sign-preserving HBC/HzC synapse has faster kinetics but probably lower gain than the slower sign-inverting G-protein coupled DBC synapse. A human patient with “unilateral cone dystrophy” was found to have a positive and sustained ERG that mimicked the monkey ERG after PDA+KYN, indicating that these novel positive photopic responses can occur naturally even without drug application. These results demonstrate that hyperpolarizing second-order neurons are important for the primate photopic ERG. A “Push-Pull Model” is proposed in which DBC activity is requisite for b-wave production but in which HBC/HzC activity limits the amplitude and controls the shape of the primate photopic b-wave.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-532
Number of pages14
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • 3-piperidine dicarboxylic acid
  • Primate photopic electroretinogram Cone photoreceptor cell Retinal bipolar cell 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid cis-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


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