1. Membrane currents of horizontal cells isolated from the retina of the turtle, Pseudemys, were characterized by the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. 2. Four membrane currents were identified: an anomalous rectifier blocked by barium, a transient A-current, a sustained L-type calcium current enhanced by Bay K 8644, and a fast, tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium current. Each of these four currents was found in both horizontal cell somata and axon terminals. 3. The current-voltage relations of axon terminals and somata were similar, but, in the normal operating range of the cell (-30 to -50 mV), the mean slope resistance of the axon terminal was higher (1.38 GΩ) than that of the soma (0.26 GΩ). 4. Exposure to either glutamate, kainate, or quisqualate induced a sustained inward current in horizontal cell axon terminals. The reversal potential for this current was -3 mV when tested with voltage steps and +9.1 mV when measured by a voltage ramp. The same horizontal cells were insensitive to N-methyl-D-aspartate. 5. A continuum model was developed to compute the degree of signal transfer between a horizontal cell body and its axon terminal. The model consisted of a network of electrically coupled somata that communicates with a network of electrically coupled axon terminals through the connecting axons. The specific membrane resistances used for the model derived from the patch-clamp measures. 6. We computed the voltage change elicited in either the layer of somata or of axon terminals by a static light stimulus of arbitrary dimensions. The amplitude of a spot response as a function of its radius was given by the weighted sum of two Bessel functions with different space constants. 7. The computed responses of the cell body were dominated by the Bessel function with the smaller space constant, whereas those of the axon terminal depended primarily on the Bessel function with the larger space constant. 8. The model predicts that, in contrast to the findings in teleost retina, there is little signal transfer between the somata and axon terminals of horizontal cell in the turtle retina.
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