Light reflected from the fundus of albino (Balb/c) and pigmented (C57Bl/6J) mice was measured with a multichannel scanning laser ophthalmoscopy optical coherence tomography (SLO-OCT) optical system. Serial scanning of small retinal regions was used for bleaching rhodopsin and measuring reflectance changes.
Serial scanning generated a saturating reflectance increase centered at 501 nm with a photosensitivity of 1.4 × 10 −8 per molecule μm 2 in both strains, 2-fold higher than expected were irradiance at the rod outer segment base equal to that at the retinal surface. The action spectrum of the reflectance increase corresponds to the absorption spectrum of mouse rhodopsin in situ. Spectra obtained before and after bleaching were fitted with a model of fundus reflectance, quantifying contributions from loss of rhodopsin absorption with bleaching, absorption by oxygenated hemoglobin (HbO 2) in the choroid (Balb/c), and absorption by melanin (C57Bl/6J). Both mouse strains exhibited light-induced broadband reflectance changes explained as bleaching-induced reflectivity increases at photoreceptor inner segment/outer segment (IS/OS) junctions and OS tips.
The elevated photosensitivity of rhodopsin bleaching in vivo is explained by waveguide condensing of light in propagation from rod inner segment (RIS) to rod outer segment (ROS). The similar photosensitivity of rhodopsin in the two strains reveals that little light backscattered from the sclera can enter the ROS. The bleaching-induced increases in reflectance at the IS/OS junctions and OS tips resemble results previously reported in human cones, but are ascribed to rods due to their 30/1 predominance over cones in mice and to the relatively minor amount of cone M-opsin in the regions scanned.