1. In the retina, two distinct, light-evoked releases of K+ have been described. One takes place in the outer plexiform layer (OPL) and is termed the 'distal K+ increase.' The other takes place in the inner plexiform layer (IPL) and is termed the 'proximal K+ increase.' Although the distal K+ increase generates the electroretinogram (ERG) b-wave, the contribution of the much larger proximal K+ increase to the ERG is less well understood. In this paper we detail our investigation of the proximal K+ increase and its contribution to the ERG. We describe an ERG component, the M-wave, which had not heretofore been observed in the diffuse-flash, vitreal ERG. 2. We studied the proximal K+ increase and the ERG M-wave in the isolated retina preparation of the toad, Bufo marinus. We used K+-sensitive microelectrodes, as well as conventional intra- and extracellular microelectrodes, to record K+ changes, the local (or intraretinal) ERG, the vitreal ERG, and Muller cell responses. 3. As in earlier studies of the amphibian and cat M-wave, we readily observed an M-wave in the intraretinal, or local, ERG (LERG). The M- wave we studied had characteristics similar to those of M-waves that were previously described. Specifically, we found that the M-wave was generated by a Muller cell response to the proximal K+ increase and that both the proximal K+ increase and the LERG M-wave were spatially tuned. 4. We used the aspartate receptor agonist, N-methyl-DL-aspartate (NMA), to reveal that an M-wave is present in the vitreal ERG. Researchers who previously investigated the M-wave were unable to identify an M-wave in the vitreal ERG. We found that the toad ERG M-wave was a small, positive potential that was partially obscured by the much larger b-wave and slow PIII components. 5. We observed that picrotoxin (PTX) had an excitatory effect on inner retina, as evidenced by an enhanced proximal K+ increase and an enhanced M-wave. This result indicates that it is likely that GABAergic inhibition in inner retina plays an important role in retinal processing in the toad. 6. At threshold, we found that the ERG consisted mainly of an M-wave, indicating that the amphibian threshold ERG is driven by proximal retina. This result is analogous to previous observations of the threshold ERG in cat. However, in cat, the M-wave and threshold response have been described as distinct ERG components. In this paper we conclude that the M-wave and threshold response of amphibian are the same potential. 7. On the basis of a depth profile of the LERG M-wave, we found that the amplitude and polarity of the M-wave throughout the retina supported a qualitative model of M-wave generation. This model, described in the text, is useful for understanding the contribution of the proximal K+ increase to the ERG and can account for the differences between the M-waves of amphibian and cat.
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