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      Melanopsin mediates light-dependent relaxation in blood vessels

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          Abstract

          Melanopsin (opsin4; Opn4), a non-image-forming opsin, has been linked to a number of behavioral responses to light, including circadian photo-entrainment, light suppression of activity in nocturnal animals, and alertness in diurnal animals. We report a physiological role for Opn4 in regulating blood vessel function, particularly in the context of photorelaxation. Using PCR, we demonstrate that Opn4 (a classic G protein-coupled receptor) is expressed in blood vessels. Force-tension myography demonstrates that vessels from Opn4(-/-) mice fail to display photorelaxation, which is also inhibited by an Opn4-specific small-molecule inhibitor. The vasorelaxation is wavelength-specific, with a maximal response at ∼430-460 nm. Photorelaxation does not involve endothelial-, nitric oxide-, carbon monoxide-, or cytochrome p450-derived vasoactive prostanoid signaling but is associated with vascular hyperpolarization, as shown by intracellular membrane potential measurements. Signaling is both soluble guanylyl cyclase- and phosphodiesterase 6-dependent but protein kinase G-independent. β-Adrenergic receptor kinase 1 (βARK 1 or GRK2) mediates desensitization of photorelaxation, which is greatly reduced by GRK2 inhibitors. Blue light (455 nM) regulates tail artery vasoreactivity ex vivo and tail blood blood flow in vivo, supporting a potential physiological role for this signaling system. This endogenous opsin-mediated, light-activated molecular switch for vasorelaxation might be harnessed for therapy in diseases in which altered vasoreactivity is a significant pathophysiologic contributor.

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          Most cited references36

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          Melanopsin Signaling in Mammalian Iris and Retina

          Lower vertebrates have an intrinsically-photosensitive iris and thus a local pupillary light reflex (PLR). In contrast, it has been a dogma that the PLR in mammals generally requires neuronal circuitry connecting the eye and the brain. We report here that an intrinsic component of the PLR is actually widespread in nocturnal and crepuscular mammals. In mouse, this intrinsic PLR requires the visual pigment, melanopsin. It also requires PLCβ4, the vertebrate homolog of the Drosophila NorpA phospholipase C mediating rhabdomeric phototransduction. The Plcβ4 −/− genotype, besides removing the intrinsic PLR, also essentially eliminates the intrinsic light response of the M1-subtype of melanopsin-expressing, intrinsically-photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (M1-ipRGCs), by far the most photosensitive ipRGCs and with the largest responses. Ablating in mouse the expression of both TRPC6 and TRPC7, members of the TRP channel superfamily, likewise essentially eliminated the M1-ipRGC light response, but spared the intrinsic PLR. Thus, melanopsin signaling exists in both iris and retina, involving a PLCβ4-mediated pathway that nonetheless diverges in the two locations.
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            A direct and melanopsin-dependent fetal light response regulates mouse eye development.

            Vascular patterning is critical for organ function. In the eye, there is simultaneous regression of embryonic hyaloid vasculature (important to clear the optical path) and formation of the retinal vasculature (important for the high metabolic demands of retinal neurons). These events occur postnatally in the mouse. Here we have identified a light-response pathway that regulates both processes. We show that when mice are mutated in the gene (Opn4) for the atypical opsin melanopsin, or are dark-reared from late gestation, the hyaloid vessels are persistent at 8 days post-partum and the retinal vasculature overgrows. We provide evidence that these vascular anomalies are explained by a light-response pathway that suppresses retinal neuron number, limits hypoxia and, as a consequence, holds local expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA) in check. We also show that the light response for this pathway occurs in late gestation at about embryonic day 16 and requires the photopigment in the fetus and not the mother. Measurements show that visceral cavity photon flux is probably sufficient to activate melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cells in the mouse fetus. These data thus show that light--the stimulus for function of the mature eye--is also critical in preparing the eye for vision by regulating retinal neuron number and initiating a series of events that ultimately pattern the ocular blood vessels.
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              Addition of human melanopsin renders mammalian cells photoresponsive.

              A small number of mammalian retinal ganglion cells act as photoreceptors for regulating certain non-image forming photoresponses. These intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells express the putative photopigment melanopsin. Ablation of the melanopsin gene renders these cells insensitive to light; however, the precise role of melanopsin in supporting cellular photosensitivity is unconfirmed. Here we show that heterologous expression of human melanopsin in a mouse paraneuronal cell line (Neuro-2a) is sufficient to render these cells photoreceptive. Under such conditions, melanopsin acts as a sensory photopigment, coupled to a native ion channel via a G-protein signalling cascade, to drive physiological light detection. The melanopsin photoresponse relies on the presence of cis-isoforms of retinaldehyde and is selectively sensitive to short-wavelength light. We also present evidence to show that melanopsin functions as a bistable pigment in this system, having an intrinsic photoisomerase regeneration function that is chromatically shifted to longer wavelengths.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                December 16 2014
                December 16 2014
                December 16 2014
                November 17 2014
                : 111
                : 50
                : 17977-17982
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1420258111
                25404319
                320eb160-983c-4568-850d-fe2801dcf73b
                © 2014
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