Dark and light adaptation of retinal neurons allow our vision to operate over an enormous light intensity range. Here we report a mechanism that controls the light sensitivity and operational range of rod-driven bipolar cells that mediate dim-light vision. Our data indicate that the light responses of these cells are enhanced by sustained chloride currents via GABA C receptor channels. This sensitizing GABAergic input is controlled by dopamine D1 receptors, with horizontal cells serving as a plausible source of GABA release. Our findings expand the role of dopamine in vision from its well-established function of suppressing rod-driven signals in bright light to enhancing the same signals under dim illumination. They further reveal a role for GABA in sensitizing the circuitry for dim-light vision, thereby complementing GABA's traditional role in providing dynamic feedforward and feedback inhibition in the retina.
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