Multiple cell types form the VIP amacrine cell population
Amacrine cells are a heterogeneous group of interneurons that form microcircuits with bipolar, amacrine and ganglion cells to process visual information in the inner retina. This study has characterized the morphology, neurochemistry and major cell types of a VIP-ires-Cre amacrine cell population. VIP-tdTomato and -Confetti (Brainbow2.1) mouse lines were generated by crossing a VIP-ires-Cre line with either a Cre-dependent tdTomato or Brainbow2.1 reporter line. Retinal sections and whole-mounts were evaluated by quantitative, immunohistochemical, and intracellular labeling approaches. The majority of tdTomato and Confetti fluorescent cell bodies were in the inner nuclear layer (INL) and a few cell bodies were in the ganglion cell layer (GCL). Fluorescent processes ramified in strata 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the inner plexiform layer (IPL). All tdTomato fluorescent cells expressed syntaxin 1A and GABA-immunoreactivity indicating they were amacrine cells. The average VIP-tdTomato fluorescent cell density in the INL and GCL was 535 and 24 cells/mm2, respectively. TdTomato fluorescent cells in the INL and GCL contained VIP-immunoreactivity. The VIP-ires-Cre amacrine cell types were identified in VIP-Brainbow2.1 retinas or by intracellular labeling in VIP-tdTomato retinas. VIP-1 amacrine cells are bistratified, wide-field cells that ramify in strata 1, 4, and 5, VIP-2A and 2B amacrine cells are medium-field cells that mainly ramify in strata 3 and 4, and VIP-3 displaced amacrine cells are medium-field cells that ramify in strata 4 and 5 of the IPL. VIP-ires-Cre amacrine cells form a neuropeptide-expressing cell population with multiple cell types, which are likely to have distinct roles in visual processing.