Taurine (2-aminoethylsuphonic acid) is present in nearly all animal tissues, and is the most abundant free amino acid in muscle, heart, CNS, and retina. Although it is known to be a major cytoprotectant and essential for normal retinal development, its role in retinal neurotransmission and modulation is not well understood. We investigated the response of taurine in retinal ganglion cells, and its effect on synaptic transmission between ganglion cells and their presynaptic neurons. We find that taurine-elicited currents in ganglion cells could be fully blocked by both strychnine and SR95531, glycine and GABAA receptor antagonists, respectively. This suggests that taurine-activated receptors might share the antagonists with GABA and glycine receptors. The effect of taurine at micromolar concentrations can effectively suppress spontaneous vesicle release from the presynaptic neurons, but had limited effects on light-evoked synaptic signals in ganglion cells. We also describe a metabotropic effect of taurine in the suppression of light-evoked response in ganglion cells. Clearly, taurine acts in multiple ways to modulate synaptic signals in retinal output neurons, ganglion cells.
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