Amacrine cell

Amacrine cells are interneurons in the retina. Amacrine cells are responsible for 70% of input to retinal ganglion cells. Bipolar cells, which are responsible for the other 30% of input to retinal ganglia, are regulated by amacrine cells.


Amacrine cells operate at the inner plexiform layer (IPL), the second synaptic retinal layer where bipolar cells and ganglion cells synapse. There are about 40 different types of amacrine cells, most lacking axons. Like horizontal cells, amacrine cells work laterally affecting the output from bipolar cells, however, their tasks are often more specialized. Each type of amacrine cell connects with a particular type of bipolar cell, and generally has a particular type of neurotransmitter. One such population, AII, 'piggybacks' rod bipolar cells onto the cone bipolar circuitry. It connects rod bipolar cell output with cone bipolar cell input, and from there the signal can travel to the respective ganglion cells.

They are classified by the width of their field of connection, which layer(s) of the stratum in the IPL they are in, and by neurotransmitter type. Most are inhibitory using either GABA or glycine as neurotransmitters.


Relatively little is known of the functional roles of the Amacrine cells. Amacrine cells with extensive dendritic trees are thought to contribute to inhibitory surrounds by feedback at both the bipolar cell, and ganglion cell levels. In this role they are considered to supplement the action of the horizontal cells. Amacrine cells give much more input to M (Magnocellular) ganglion cells than to P (Parvocellular) ganglion cells.

Other forms of Amacrine cell are likely to play modulatory roles, allowing adjustment of sensitivity for photopic and scotopic vision. The AII Amacrine cell (also known as the Rod amacrine cell) is a mediator of signals from rod cells under scotopic conditions.

See also



  • Masland RH (2001). "The fundamental plan of the retina". Nat. Neurosci. 4 (9): 877–86.

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