Photoreceptors need the support of pigment epithelial (PE) and Müller glial cells in order to maintain visual sensitivity and neurotransmitter resynthesis. In rod outer segments (ROS), all-trans-retinal is transformed to all-trans-retinol by retinol dehydrogenase using NADPH. NADPH is restored in ROS by the pentose phosphate pathway utilizing high amounts of glucose supplied by choriocapillaries. The retinal formed is transported to PE cells where regeneration of 11-cis-retinal occurs. Müller cells take up and metabolize glucose predominantly to lactate which is massively released into the extracellular space (ES). Lactate is taken up by photoreceptors, where it is transformed to pyruvate which, in turn, enters the Krebs cycle in mitochondria of the inner segment. Stimulation of neurotransmitter release by darkness induces 130% rise in the amount of glutamate released into ES. Glutamate is transported into Müller cells where it is predominantly transformed to glutamine. Stimulation of photoreceptors induces an eightfold increase in glutamine formation. It appears, therefore, that there is a signaling function in the transfer of amino acids from Müller cells to photoreceptors. Work on the model-system of the honeybee retina demonstrated that photoreceptors release NH + 4 and glutamate in a stimulus-dependent manner which, in turn, contribute to the biosynthesis of alanine in glia. Alanine released into the extracellular space is taken up and used by photoreceptors. Glial cells take glutamate by high-affinity transporters. This uptake induces a transient change in glial cell metabolism. The transformation of glutamate to glutamine is possibly also controlled by the uptake of NH + 4 which directly affects cellular metabolism.
Progress in Retinal and Eye Research – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 1998
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