Distinct contributions of rod, cone, and melanopsin photoreceptors to encoding irradiance

Gurprit S. Lall, Victoria L. Revell, Hiroshi Momiji, Jazi Al Enezi, Cara M. Altimus, Ali D. Güler, Carlos Aguilar, Morven A. Cameron, Susan Allender, Mark W. Hankins, Robert J. Lucas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)417-428
    Number of pages11
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2010




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