Melanopsin regulates visual processing in the mouse retina.
Barnard AR., Hattar S., Hankins MW., Lucas RJ.
The discovery of melanopsin-dependent inner retinal photoreceptors in mammals has precipitated a fundamental reassessment of such non-image forming (NIF) light responses as circadian photoentrainment and the pupil light reflex. By contrast, it remains unclear whether these new photoreceptors also play a role in classical image-forming vision. The retinal ganglion cells that subserve inner retinal photoreception (ipRGCs) project overwhelmingly to brain areas involved in NIF responses, indicating that, in terms of central signaling, their predominant function is non-image forming. However, ipRGCs also exhibit intraretinal communication via gap junction coupling, which could allow them to modulate classical visual pathways within this tissue. Here, we explore this second possibility by using melanopsin knockout (Opn4-/-) mice to examine the role of inner retinal photoreceptors in diurnal regulation of retinal function. By using electroretinography in wild-type mice, we describe diurnal rhythms in both the amplitude and speed of the retinal cone pathway that are a function of both prior light exposure and circadian phase. Unexpectedly, loss of the melanopsin gene abolishes circadian control of these parameters, causing significant attenuation of the diurnal variation in cone vision. Our results demonstrate for the first time a melanopsin-dependent regulation of visual processing within the retina, revealing an important function for inner retinal photoreceptors in optimizing classical visual pathways according to time of day.