The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Horizontal cell feedback without cone type-selective inhibition mediates "red-green" color opponency in midget ganglion cells of the primate retina.

PMID 21289186


The distinctive red-green dimension of human and nonhuman primate color perception arose relatively recently in the primate lineage with the appearance of separate long (L) and middle (M) wavelength-sensitive cone photoreceptor types. "Midget" ganglion cells of the retina use center-surround receptive field structure to combine L and M cone signals antagonistically and thereby establish a "red-green, color-opponent" visual pathway. However, the synaptic origin of red-green opponency is unknown, and conflicting evidence for either random or L versus M cone-selective inhibitory circuits has divergent implications for the developmental and evolutionary origins of trichromatic color vision. Here we directly measure the synaptic conductances evoked by selective L or M cone stimulation in the midget ganglion cell dendritic tree and show that L versus M cone opponency arises presynaptic to the midget cell and is transmitted entirely by modulation of an excitatory conductance. L and M cone synaptic inhibition is feedforward and thus occurs in phase with excitation for both cone types. Block of GABAergic and glycinergic receptors does not attenuate or modify L versus M cone antagonism, discounting both presynaptic and postsynaptic inhibition as sources of cone opponency. In sharp contrast, enrichment of retinal pH-buffering capacity, to attenuate negative feedback from horizontal cells that sum L and M cone inputs linearly and without selectivity, completely abolished both the midget cell surround and all chromatic opponency. Thus, red-green opponency appears to arise via outer retinal horizontal cell feedback that is not cone type selective without recourse to any inner retinal L versus M cone inhibitory pathways.

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