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In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (4)

Articles by Cara M. Altimus in JoVE

Other articles by Cara M. Altimus on PubMed

Melanopsin Cells Are the Principal Conduits for Rod-cone Input to Non-image-forming Vision

Rod and cone photoreceptors detect light and relay this information through a multisynaptic pathway to the brain by means of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). These retinal outputs support not only pattern vision but also non-image-forming (NIF) functions, which include circadian photoentrainment and pupillary light reflex (PLR). In mammals, NIF functions are mediated by rods, cones and the melanopsin-containing intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). Rod-cone photoreceptors and ipRGCs are complementary in signalling light intensity for NIF functions. The ipRGCs, in addition to being directly photosensitive, also receive synaptic input from rod-cone networks. To determine how the ipRGCs relay rod-cone light information for both image-forming and non-image-forming functions, we genetically ablated ipRGCs in mice. Here we show that animals lacking ipRGCs retain pattern vision but have deficits in both PLR and circadian photoentrainment that are more extensive than those observed in melanopsin knockouts. The defects in PLR and photoentrainment resemble those observed in animals that lack phototransduction in all three photoreceptor classes. These results indicate that light signals for irradiance detection are dissociated from pattern vision at the retinal ganglion cell level, and animals that cannot detect light for NIF functions are still capable of image formation.

Retina-clock Relations Dictate Nocturnal to Diurnal Behaviors

Distinct Contributions of Rod, Cone, and Melanopsin Photoreceptors to Encoding Irradiance

Photoreceptive, melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cells (mRGCs) encode ambient light (irradiance) for the circadian clock, the pupillomotor system, and other influential behavioral/physiological responses. mRGCs are activated both by their intrinsic phototransduction cascade and by the rods and cones. However, the individual contribution of each photoreceptor class to irradiance responses remains unclear. We address this deficit using mice expressing human red cone opsin, in which rod-, cone-, and melanopsin-dependent responses can be identified by their distinct spectral sensitivity. Our data reveal an unexpectedly important role for rods. These photoreceptors define circadian responses at very dim "scotopic" light levels but also at irradiances at which pattern vision relies heavily on cones. By contrast, cone input to irradiance responses dissipates following light adaptation to the extent that these receptors make a very limited contribution to circadian and pupillary light responses under these conditions. Our data provide new insight into retinal circuitry upstream of mRGCs and optimal stimuli for eliciting irradiance responses.

Rod Photoreceptors Drive Circadian Photoentrainment Across a Wide Range of Light Intensities

In mammals, synchronization of the circadian pacemaker in the hypothalamus is achieved through direct input from the eyes conveyed by intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). Circadian photoentrainment can be maintained by rod and cone photoreceptors, but their functional contributions and their retinal circuits that impinge on ipRGCs are not well understood. Using mice that lack functional rods or in which rods are the only functional photoreceptors, we found that rods were solely responsible for photoentrainment at scotopic light intensities. Rods were also capable of driving circadian photoentrainment at photopic intensities at which they were incapable of supporting a visually guided behavior. Using mice in which cone photoreceptors were ablated, we found that rods signal through cones at high light intensities, but not at low light intensities. Thus, rods use two distinct retinal circuits to drive ipRGC function to support circadian photoentrainment across a wide range of light intensities.

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