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

Nitric oxide mediates activity-dependent plasticity of retinal bipolar cell output via S-nitrosylation.

PMID 24305814


Coding a wide range of light intensities in natural scenes poses a challenge for the retina: adaptation to bright light should not compromise sensitivity to dim light. Here we report a novel form of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity, specifically, a "weighted potentiation" that selectively increases output of Mb-type bipolar cells in the goldfish retina in response to weak inputs but leaves the input-output ratio for strong stimuli unaffected. In retinal slice preparation, strong depolarization of bipolar terminals significantly lowered the threshold for calcium spike initiation, which originated from a shift in activation of voltage-gated calcium currents (ICa) to more negative potentials. The process depended upon glutamate-evoked retrograde nitric oxide (NO) signaling as it was eliminated by pretreatment with an NO synthase blocker, TRIM. The NO-dependent ICa modulation was cGMP independent but could be blocked by N-ethylmaleimide (NEM), indicating that NO acted via an S-nitrosylation mechanism. Importantly, the NO action resulted in a weighted potentiation of Mb output in response to small (≤-30 mV) depolarizations. Coincidentally, light flashes with intensity ≥ 2.4 × 10(8) photons/cm(2)/s lowered the latency of scotopic (≤ 2.4 × 10(8) photons/cm(2)/s) light-evoked calcium spikes in Mb axon terminals in an NEM-sensitive manner, but light responses above cone threshold (≥ 3.5 × 10(9) photons/cm(2)/s) were unaltered. Under bright scotopic/mesopic conditions, this novel form of Mb output potentiation selectively amplifies dim retinal inputs at Mb → ganglion cell synapses. We propose that this process might counteract decreases in retinal sensitivity during light adaptation by preventing the loss of visual information carried by dim scotopic signals.