The contribution of inner and outer retinal photoreceptors to infra-slow oscillations in the rat olivary pretectal nucleus.

Patrycja Orlowska-Feuer, AE Allen, R Storchi, HJ Szkudlarek, MH Lewandowski

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A subpopulation of olivary pretectal nucleus (OPN) neurons discharges action potentials in an oscillatory manner, with a period of approximately two minutes. This 'infra-slow' oscillatory activity depends on synaptic excitation originating in the retina. Signals from rod-cone photoreceptors reach the OPN via the axons of either classic retinal ganglion cells or intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), which use melanopsin for photon capturing. Although both cell types convey light information, their physiological functions differ considerably. The aim of the present study was to disentangle how rod-cone and melanopsin photoresponses contribute to generation of oscillatory activity. We used pharmacological manipulations of specific phototransduction cascades whilst recording extracellular single-unit activity in the OPN of anaesthetized rats. Our results show that under photopic conditions (bright light) ipRGCs play a major role in driving infra-slow oscillations, since blocking melanopsin phototransmission abolishes or transiently disturbs oscillatory firing of the OPN neurons. On the other hand, blocking rod-cone phototransmission does not change firing patterns in photopic conditions. However, under mesopic conditions (moderate light), when melanopsin phototransmission is absent, blocking rod-cone signalling causes disturbances or even the disappearance of oscillations implying that classic photoreceptors are of greater importance under moderate light. We provide evidence that all photoreceptors are required for the generation of oscillations in the OPN, although their roles in driving the rhythm are determined by the lighting conditions, consistent with their relative sensitivities. Our results further suggest that maintained retinal activity is crucial to observe infra-slow oscillatory activity in the OPN. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe European journal of neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2016


  • in vivo electrophysiology
  • melanopsin
  • neuronal oscillations
  • photoreceptors


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