The recent isolation of at least five different cDNAs encoding functional subunits of glutamate receptors (GluR1 to GluR5) has revealed a diversity whose function is not understood. To learn more about how these different receptor subunits are used in the brain, we undertook an in situ hybridization study of the retina to define how the different glutamate receptor genes are expressed. We chose the retina because the glutamate sensitivities of its different cell types have been characterized, and these different neurons reside in different laminae.
Hybridization of [35S]UTP-labeled cRNA probes with transverse sections and freshly dissociated cells reveals that all five receptor subunits are expressed in the retina. Hybridization signal is detected in different, but overlapping, sets of cells in the retina. GluR1, GluR2, and GluR5 are expressed by many somata, and GluR4 by a few, in the outer third of the inner nuclear layer, where the horizontal cells reside. Transcripts for GluR1, GluR2, and GluR5 are found in the somata within the middle third of the inner nuclear layer, which is where the bipolar cell somata are located, and GluR2 probes label freshly dissociated rod bipolar cells. All of the probes produce labeling over the cells at the inner edge of the inner nuclear layer, which are probably amacrine cells, as well as over the cell bodies in the ganglion cell layer.