Regulation of potassium levels by Muller cells in the vertebrate retina

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The membrane properties of Muller cells, the principal glial cells of the vertebrate retina, have been characterized in a series of physiological experiments on freshly dissociated cells. In species lacking a retinal circulation (tiger salamander, rabbit, guinea pig), the end-foot of the Muller cell has a much higher K+ conductance than do other cell regions. In species with retinal circulation (mouse, cat, owl monkey) the K+ conductance of the end-foot is greater than the conductance of the proximal process of the cell. In these species, however, the K+ conductance of the soma and distal process is equal to, or greater than, the end-foot conductance. Muller cells also possess four voltage-dependent ion channels, including an inward rectifying K+ channel. These membrane specializations may aid in the regulation of extracellular K+ levels by Muller cells in the retina. High end-foot conductance shunts excess K+ out through the end-foot, where it diffuses into the vitreous humor. In vascularized retinae, excess K+ may also be transferred to the ablumenal wall of capillaries, where it could be transported into the blood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1032
Number of pages5
JournalCanadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1987


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