This review covers a broad range of topics related to the actions of zinc on the cells of the vertebrate retina. Much of this review relies on studies in which zinc was applied exogenously, and therefore the results, albeit highly suggestive, lack physiologic significance. This view stems from the fact that the concentrations of zinc used in these studies may not be encountered under the normal circumstances of life. This caveat is due to the lack of a zinc-specific probe with which to measure the concentrations of Zn(2+) that may be released from neurons or act upon them. However, a great deal of relevant information has been garnered from studies in which Zn(2+) was chelated, and the effects of its removal compared with findings obtained in its presence. For a more complete discussion of the consequences of depletion or excess in the body's trace elements, the reader is referred to a recent review by Ugarte et al. in which they provide a detailed account of the interactions, toxicity, and metabolic activity of the essential trace elements iron, zinc, and copper in retinal physiology and disease. In addition, Smart et al. have published a splendid review on the modulation by zinc of inhibitory and excitatory amino acid receptor ion channels.