Mechanism for Selective Synaptic Wiring of Rod Photoreceptors into the Retinal Circuitry and Its Role in Vision
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In the retina, rod and cone photoreceptors form distinct connections with different classes of downstream bipolar cells. However, the molecular mechanisms responsible for their selective connectivity are unknown. Here we identify a cell-adhesion protein, ELFN1, to be essential for the formation of synapses between rods and rod ON-bipolar cells in the primary rod pathway. ELFN1 is expressed selectively in rods where it is targeted to the axonal terminals by the synaptic release machinery. At the synapse, ELFN1 binds in trans to mGluR6, the postsynaptic receptor on rod ON-bipolar cells. Elimination of ELFN1 in mice prevents the formation of synaptic contacts involving rods, but not cones, allowing a dissection of the contributions of primary and secondary rod pathways to retinal circuit function and vision. We conclude that ELFN1 is necessary for the selective wiring of rods into the primary rod pathway and is required for high sensitivity of vision.
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