Human, macaque monkey, and rat retinas were immunostained with a polyclonal antibody preparation against purified recoverin, a 23-kD calcium-binding protein isolated from bovine retina that localizes to rods and cones (Dizhoor et al., 1991). In addition to immunoreactive photoreceptors, we have identified subpopulations of recoverin-positive bipolar cells in all three species. Results from immunostaining with progressive dilutions of anti-recoverin and preadsorption of the antibody with a dilution series of purified recoverin showed that photoreceptors and bipolar cells had similar affinities for the antibody and suggested that the molecule recognized by the antibody in both cell types is recoverin. Immunoreactivity for recoverin and protein kinase C, a selective marker for all rod bipolar cells, was found in separate bipolar cell populations. Recoverin immunoreactivity is therefore a characteristic of certain cone bipolar cell types.
In rat retina, anti-recoverin labeled two morphologically distinct subpopulations of cone bipolar cells whose axonal arbors stratified at different depths in the inner plexiform layer (IPL). The bipolar cells labeled with anti-recoverin did not correspond to those that were reactive for calbindin, another cone bipolar cell marker.
Human and monkey retinas also had two populations of cone bipolar cells that were recoverin-positive. One population showed a distinct pattern of narrow bistratification at the outer border of the IPL and a regular mosaic arrangement of its axonal arbors, suggesting that the entire population of a single cone bipolar type was labeled. Cell density, dendritic morphology, and axonal-field size and stratification indicate that anti-recoverin selectively stains the flat midget (presumed OFF-center) cone bipolar cell type observed previously in Golgi preparations. By contrast the second bipolar cell population had axonal stratification in the inner half of the IPL and showed an unusual but consistent morphology and spatial distribution. Individual cells were intensely stained but were present at an extremely low density (~2−5 cells/mm2). These cells had multibranched dendritic trees characteristic of the diffuse bipolar cell class, but very small axonal fields in the size range of the midget bipolar class. Neither of the two recoverin-positive bipolar cell types in monkey was labeled with anti-calbindin or anti-cholecystokinin. An antibody preparation against bovine pineal hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase (HIOMT) labeled photoreceptors and bipolar cells that closely resembled the recoverin-positive bipolar cells in human and rat retinas. Preadsorption of this antibody preparation with purified recoverin abolished immunostaining of the bipolar cells, suggesting that the anti-HIOMT preparation contains antibodies against recoverin, which is known to be present in the bovine pineal gland.