GluMI cells are anything but

In the retina, newly identified nerve cells inspire action

GLuMI nerve cell

PEEKABOO  A GLuMI nerve cell (yellow) is tucked among bipolar nerve cells  with two arms (red), photoreceptors (top, blue) and ganglion cells (bottom, pink) in a mouse retina.

Univ. of Washington

Despite its name, the newly identified GluMI cell (pronounced “gloomy”) is no downer.

It’s a nerve cell, spied in a mouse retina, that looks like one type of cell but behaves like another. Like neighboring retina nerve cells that subdue, or deaden, activity of other nerve cells, GluMI cells have a single arm extending from their body. But unlike those cells, GluMI cells actually seem to ramp up activity of nearby cells in a way that could aid vision.

GLuMIs don’t seem to detect light firsthand, but they respond to it, Luca Della Santina of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues found. GluMIs are among a growing list of unexpected and mysterious cells found in the retinas of vertebrates, the researchers write August 8 in Current Biology.

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