Electroretinographic (ERG) and extracellular potassium activity measurements were carried out in superfused eyecup preparations of several amphibians. Light-evoked changes in extracellular K+ activity were characterized on the bases of depth profile analysis and latency measurements and through the application of pharmacological agents that have selective actions on the retinal network. Three different extracellular potassium modulations evoked at light onset were identified and characterized according to their phenomenological and pharmacological properties. These modulations include two separable sources of light-evoked increases in extracellular K+: (a) a proximal source that is largely post-bipolar in origin, and (b) a distal source that is primarily or exclusively of depolarizing bipolar cell origin. The pharmacological properties of the distal extracellular potassium increase closely parallel those of the b-wave. A distal light-evoked decrease in extracellular potassium appears to be associated with the slow PIII potential, based on a combination of simultaneous intracellular Müller cell recordings and extracellular ERG and potassium activity measurements before and during pharmacological isolation of the photoreceptor responses. The extracellular potassium activity increases are discussed with respect to the Müller cell theory of b-wave generation.
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