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      Distinct responses of cones and melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cells in the human electroretinogram

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          Abstract

          Background

          The discovery of the novel photoreceptor, melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cells (mRGCs), has raised researchers’ interest in photoreceptive tasks performed by the mRGC, especially in non-image-forming visual functions. In a prior study, we investigated the mRGC response to light stimuli independent of rods and cones with the four-primary illumination system, which modulates stimulus levels to the mRGC and cones independently, and mRGC baseline responses were recorded in the electroretinogram (ERG).

          Methods

          In the present study, we used the same illumination system to compare independent responses of the mRGC and cones in five subjects (mean ± SD age, 23.0 ± 1.7 years). The ERG waveforms were examined as direct measurements of responses of the mRGCs and cones to stimulation (250 msec). Implicit times (the time taken to peaks) and peak values from 30 stimuli given to each subject were analyzed.

          Results

          Two distinct positive peaks appeared in the mRGC response, approximately 80 msec after the onset of the stimuli and 30 msec after their offset, while no such peaks appeared in the cone response. The response to the mRGC stimulus was significantly higher than that to the cone stimulus at approximately 80 msec ( P < 0.05) and tended to be higher than the cone stimulus at approximately 280 msec ( P = 0.08).

          Conclusions

          Implicit time of the first peak was much longer than that to the b-wave and this delay might reflect mRGC’s sluggish responses. This is the first report of amplitudes and implicit time in the ERG from the response of the mRGC that is independent of rods and cones, and obtained using the four-primary illumination system.

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          Most cited references 23

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          Melanopsin-expressing ganglion cells in primate retina signal colour and irradiance and project to the LGN.

          Human vision starts with the activation of rod photoreceptors in dim light and short (S)-, medium (M)-, and long (L)- wavelength-sensitive cone photoreceptors in daylight. Recently a parallel, non-rod, non-cone photoreceptive pathway, arising from a population of retinal ganglion cells, was discovered in nocturnal rodents. These ganglion cells express the putative photopigment melanopsin and by signalling gross changes in light intensity serve the subconscious, 'non-image-forming' functions of circadian photoentrainment and pupil constriction. Here we show an anatomically distinct population of 'giant', melanopsin-expressing ganglion cells in the primate retina that, in addition to being intrinsically photosensitive, are strongly activated by rods and cones, and display a rare, S-Off, (L + M)-On type of colour-opponent receptive field. The intrinsic, rod and (L + M) cone-derived light responses combine in these giant cells to signal irradiance over the full dynamic range of human vision. In accordance with cone-based colour opponency, the giant cells project to the lateral geniculate nucleus, the thalamic relay to primary visual cortex. Thus, in the diurnal trichromatic primate, 'non-image-forming' and conventional 'image-forming' retinal pathways are merged, and the melanopsin-based signal might contribute to conscious visual perception.
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            Melanopsin and rod-cone photoreceptive systems account for all major accessory visual functions in mice.

            In the mammalian retina, besides the conventional rod-cone system, a melanopsin-associated photoreceptive system exists that conveys photic information for accessory visual functions such as pupillary light reflex and circadian photo-entrainment. On ablation of the melanopsin gene, retinal ganglion cells that normally express melanopsin are no longer intrinsically photosensitive. Furthermore, pupil reflex, light-induced phase delays of the circadian clock and period lengthening of the circadian rhythm in constant light are all partially impaired. Here, we investigated whether additional photoreceptive systems participate in these responses. Using mice lacking rods and cones, we measured the action spectrum for phase-shifting the circadian rhythm of locomotor behaviour. This spectrum matches that for the pupillary light reflex in mice of the same genotype, and that for the intrinsic photosensitivity of the melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cells. We have also generated mice lacking melanopsin coupled with disabled rod and cone phototransduction mechanisms. These animals have an intact retina but fail to show any significant pupil reflex, to entrain to light/dark cycles, and to show any masking response to light. Thus, the rod-cone and melanopsin systems together seem to provide all of the photic input for these accessory visual functions.
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              Diminished pupillary light reflex at high irradiances in melanopsin-knockout mice.

              In the mammalian retina, a small subset of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are intrinsically photosensitive, express the opsin-like protein melanopsin, and project to brain nuclei involved in non-image-forming visual functions such as pupillary light reflex and circadian photoentrainment. We report that in mice with the melanopsin gene ablated, RGCs retrograde-labeled from the suprachiasmatic nuclei were no longer intrinsically photosensitive, although their number, morphology, and projections were unchanged. These animals showed a pupillary light reflex indistinguishable from that of the wild type at low irradiances, but at high irradiances the reflex was incomplete, a pattern that suggests that the melanopsin-associated system and the classical rod/cone system are complementary in function.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                J Physiol Anthropol
                J Physiol Anthropol
                Journal of Physiological Anthropology
                BioMed Central
                1880-6791
                1880-6805
                2012
                26 June 2012
                : 31
                : 1
                : 20
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Living Environmental Science, Fukuoka Women’s University, 1-1-1, Kasumigaoka, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka 813-8529, Japan
                [2 ]Department of Human Science, Kyushu University, 4-9-1, Shiobaru, Minami-ku, Fukuoka, 815-8540, Japan
                Article
                1880-6805-31-20
                10.1186/1880-6805-31-20
                3475092
                22738185
                Copyright ©2012 Fukuda et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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