In primate retinas, the dendrites of DB3 diffuse bipolar cells are known to receive inputs from cones. The goal of this study was to describe the synaptic connections of DB3 bipolar cell axons in the inner plexiform layer. DB3 bipolar cells in midperipheral retina were labeled with antibodies to calbindin, and their axons were analyzed in serial, ultrathin sections by electron microscopy. Synapses were found almost exclusively at the axonal varicosities of DB3 axon terminals. There were 2.14 synaptic ribbons per varicosity. There were 33 varicosities per DB3 cell, giving an average of 71 ribbons per axon terminal. Because there were 1.5 postsynaptic ganglion cell dendrites per DB3 axonal varicosity, we estimate that there is at least 1 synapse per varicosity onto a parasol ganglion cell dendrite. There were 3.4 input synapses from amacrine cells per axonal varicosity. Among these were feedback synapses to the DB3 bipolar cell axon varicosities, which were made by 47% of the postsynaptic amacrine cell processes. Some of the feedback synapses could be from amacrine cells immunoreactive for cholecystokinin precursor or choline acetyltransferase, because both types of amacrine cells costratify with parasol cells and are known to be presynaptic to bipolar cells. AII amacrine cells were both presynaptic and postsynaptic to DB3 axons, a finding consistent with the large rod input to parasol ganglion cells reported in physiological experiments. DB3 bipolar cell axons also made frequent contacts with neighboring DB3 axons, and gap junctions were always found at these sites.
Indexing terms: electron microscopy, gap junctions, amacrine cells, parasol ganglion cells