Lateral inhibition produces the centre-surround organization of retinal receptive fields, in which inhibition driven by the mean luminance enhances the sensitivity of ganglion cells to spatial and temporal contrast. Surround inhibition is generated in both synaptic layers; however, the synaptic mechanisms within the inner plexiform layer are not well characterized within specific classes of retinal ganglion cell. Here, we compared the synaptic circuits generating concentric centre-surround receptive fields in ON and OFF brisk-sustained ganglion cells (BSGCs) in the rabbit retina. We first characterized the synaptic inputs to the centre of ON BSGCs, for comparison with previous results from OFF BSGCs. Similar to wide-field ganglion cells, the spatial extent of the excitatory centre and inhibitory surround was larger for the ON than the OFF BSGCs. The results indicate that the surrounds of ON and OFF BSGCs are generated in both the outer and the inner plexiform layers. The inner plexiform layer surround inhibition comprised GABAergic suppression of excitatory inputs from bipolar cells. However, ON and OFF BSGCs displayed notable differences. Surround suppression of excitatory inputs was weaker in ON than OFF BSGCs, and was mediated largely by GABA(C) receptors in ON BSGCs, and by both GABA(A) and GABA(C) receptors in OFF BSGCs. Large ON pathway-mediated glycinergic inputs to ON and OFF BSGCs also showed surround suppression, while much smaller GABAergic inputs showed weak, if any, spatial tuning. Unlike OFF BSGCs, which receive strong glycinergic crossover inhibition from the ON pathway, the ON BSGCs do not receive crossover inhibition from the OFF pathway. We compare and discuss possible roles for glycinergic inhibition in the two cell types.
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