Transferrin can alter physiological properties of retinal neurons

Arnold G. Hyndman*, Philip E. Hockberger, Gail D. Zeevalk, John A. Connor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The role of transferrin as a possible neurotransmitter was examined in cultured chick retinal cells. Brief exposure to transferrin caused a dramatic and transient increase in intracellular calcium levels in approximately 20% of the total population of cultured retinal neurons. The increase in intracellular calcium was observed in cell bodies and neuronal processes. Electrophysiological analysis of a subset of the population, bipolar-like neurons, demonstrated that more than half of these cells responded to the application of transferrin with a transient membrane depolarization. Under voltage clamp conditions, the currents evoked by transferrin were similar to glutamate in that they both displayed non-linear voltage dependence. Furthermore, acute transferrin exposure resulted in a 200% increase in the amount of Na+ independent [3H]glutamate binding observed in these cultures. These results suggest that transferrin may function as a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator in the developing vertebrate nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-323
Number of pages6
JournalBrain research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 11 1991


  • Calcium
  • Culture
  • Glutamate
  • Neuron
  • Retina
  • Transferrin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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