Membrane currents of retinal bipolar cells in culture.
1. Retinal bipolar cells were isolated from white bass retinas and maintained in a cell culture preparation. Two morphological types of bipolar cells were observed in cell culture. These were labeled large- and small-bipolar cells based mainly on the size of their somata and primary dendrites. Two types of small-bipolar cells were observed. Isolated bass bipolar cells are very similar to those described in the intact retina. 2. Under current clamp, to depolarizing current injection, small-bipolar cells produced a spike followed by a plateau. Large-bipolar cells showed a slow depolarization to a plateau level. 3. Voltage-gated membrane currents were studied using whole-cell patch-clamp techniques. Channel blocking agents were used to define the ion channels found in the membranes of these cells. 4. The large-bipolar cells were found to possess an A-current, a calcium current, and a calcium-dependent potassium current. 5. Large bipolar cells also possessed an inward rectifier that did not correspond to any previously described. 6. The two types of small-bipolar cells were found to have very similar membrane properties to one another. They lacked a large A-current but possessed a slowly activating, outward rectifying potassium current. Similar to the large-bipolar cells, they showed a calcium current and a calcium-activated potassium current. 7. The inward rectifier of small-bipolar cells was characterized as an H-current. 8. The results suggest that the membrane currents of bipolar cells set a narrow operating range about which the cells function in the intact retina. In addition these currents help shape the responses of bipolar cells to light stimuli but do not confer ON or OFF properties.