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  • Spectral tuning of a circadian photopigment in a subterranean 'blind' mammal (Spalax ehrenbergi).

    27 November 2018

    The atrophied subcutaneous eyes of Spalax ehrenbergi (the blind mole rat) express a long wavelength sensitive (LWS) cone opsin. Our data provide strong evidence that this photopigment is spectrally tuned to enhance photon capture in the red light environment of the eye. Furthermore, novel mechanisms appear partially responsible for this sensory fine-tuning. These data support the hypothesis that the LWS opsin of Spalax acts as a functional photopigment and that it is not a 'residue' of the pre-subterranean visual system. As the eye of Spalax has only one known function, the entrainment of circadian rhythms to environmental light, the LWS photopigment is implicated in this task. These results, together with our recent findings that rod and cone photopigments are not required for murine photoentrainment, suggest that multiple photopigments (classical and novel) mediate the effects of light on the mammalian circadian system.

  • NMDA receptor antagonists block the effects of light on circadian behavior in the mouse.

    27 November 2018

    We report here the results of experiments designed to evaluate whether NMDA receptors mediate the phase shifting effects of light on the circadian rhythm of wheel-running activity in mice. Intraperitoneal administration of either the non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonist, (+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,b]cyclohepten-5,10-imine maleate (MK-801), or the competitive NMDA receptor antagonist, 3(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl)-propyl-1-phosphonic acid (CPP) blocked light-induced phase advances and delays. Neither drug, by itself, caused any consistent effect on the phase of the rhythm. Furthermore, there was no significant difference between the effects of MK-801 on light-induced phase shifts in a retinally degenerate and retinally normal strain of C57 mouse. These data, coupled with previous findings, indicate that excitatory amino acid receptors play an important role in the transmission of light information from the retina to the circadian system.

  • Sequence, genomic structure and tissue expression of carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) vertebrate ancient (VA) opsin.

    27 November 2018

    We report the isolation and characterisation of a novel opsin cDNA from the retina and pineal of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.). When a comparison of the amino acid sequences of salmon vertebrate ancient opsin (sVA) and the novel carp opsin are made, and the carboxyl terminus is omitted, the level of identity between these two opsins is 81% and represents the second example of the VA opsin family. We have therefore termed this C. carpio opsin as carp VA opsin (cVA opsin). We show that members of the VA opsin family may exist in two variants or isoforms based upon the length of the carboxyl terminus and propose that the mechanism of production of the short VA opsin isoform is alternative splicing of intron 4 of the VA opsin gene. The VA opsin gene consists of five exons, with intron 2 significantly shifted in a 3' direction relative to the corresponding intron in rod and cone opsins. The position (or lack) of intron 2 appears to be a diagnostic feature which separates the image forming rod and cone opsin families from the more recently discovered non-visual opsin families (pin-opsins (P), vertebrate ancient (VA), parapinopsin (PP)). Finally, we suggest that lamprey P opsin should be reassigned to the VA opsin family based upon its level of amino acid identity, genomic structure with respect to the position of intron 2 and nucleotide phylogeny.

  • Regulation of mammalian circadian behavior by non-rod, non-cone, ocular photoreceptors.

    27 November 2018

    Circadian rhythms of mammals are entrained by light to follow the daily solar cycle (photoentrainment). To determine whether retinal rods and cones are required for this response, the effects of light on the regulation of circadian wheel-running behavior were examined in mice lacking these photoreceptors. Mice without cones (cl) or without both rods and cones (rdta/cl) showed unattenuated phase-shifting responses to light. Removal of the eyes abolishes this behavior. Thus, neither rods nor cones are required for photoentrainment, and the murine eye contains additional photoreceptors that regulate the circadian clock.

  • Regulation of the mammalian pineal by non-rod, non-cone, ocular photoreceptors.

    27 November 2018

    In mammals, ocular photoreceptors mediate an acute inhibition of pineal melatonin by light. The effect of rod and cone loss on this response was assessed by combining the rd mutation with a transgenic ablation of cones (cl) to produce mice lacking both photoreceptor classes. Despite the loss of all known retinal photoreceptors, rd/rd cl mice showed normal suppression of pineal melatonin in response to monochromatic light of wavelength 509 nanometers. These data indicate that mammals have additional ocular photoreceptors that they use in the regulation of temporal physiology.

  • Zebrafish melanopsin: isolation, tissue localisation and phylogenetic position.

    27 November 2018

    Photoreception is best understood in retinal rods and cones, but it is not confined to these cells. In non-mammals, intrinsically photosensitive cells have been identified within several structures including the pineal, hypothalamus and skin. More recently novel light sensitive cells have been identified in the inner/basal retina of both teleosts and rodents. Melanopsin has been proposed as the photopigment mediating many of these non-rod, non-cone responses to light. However, much about the melanopsin gene family remains to be clarified including their potential role as photopigments, and taxonomic distribution. We have isolated the first orthologue of melanopsin from a teleost fish and show expression of this gene in a sub-set of retinal horizontal cells (type B). Zebrafish melanopsin, and orthologues of this gene, differ markedly from the vertebrate photopigment opsins. The putative counterion is not a glutamate but a tyrosine, the putative G-protein binding domain in the third cytoplasmic loop is not conserved, and they show low levels of amino acid identity (approximately 27%) to both the known photopigment opsins and to other members of the melanopsin family. Mouse melanopsin is only 58% identical to Xenopus, and 68% identical to zebrafish. By contrast, the photosensory opsin families show approximately 75% conservation. On the basis of their structure, genomic organisation, discrete evolutionary lineage, and their co-expression with other opsins, the melanopins are not obvious photosensory opsins. They might represent a separate branch of photopigment evolution in the vertebrates or they may have a non-direct photosensory function, perhaps as a photoisomerase, in non-rod, non-cone light detection.

  • Structure and evolution of the teleost extraretinal rod-like opsin (errlo) and ocular rod opsin (rho) genes: is teleost rho a retrogene?

    27 November 2018

    In Teleost fish examined to date the ocular rod opsin gene, rho, is intronless, unlike the rod opsin genes of other vertebrate classes which possess a five exon/four intron structure. We have examined in silico the structure of rho (which is expressed uniquely in the retina) and the closely related extraretinal rod-like opsin (exo-rhodopsin) gene, errlo (which is expressed uniquely in the pineal), in the puffer-fish, Fugu rubripes (Takifugu rubripes). Whilst the ocular rho is intronless in common with other Teleosts, the pineal errlo has the five exon/four intron structure common to the rod opsin gene of other vertebraes. A comparison of the sequence surrounding the errlo and rho loci indicates that the errlo locus is syntenic with RHO, the human rod opsin gene, rather than rho. We suggest that the intronless rho may have arisen through an ancient retrotransposition of a mature mRNA originating from errlo. This duplication event has occurred early in the evolution of the Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish) since the rho of the primitive Actinopterygians such as sturgeon, bowfin, and gar is also intronless. Since it appears that the intron containing errlo is the ancestral opsin gene that gave rise to the intronless rho in the Teleostei, errlo is therefore the true orthologue of the rod opsin gene in other vertebrate classes. We suggest that loss of expression of errlo in the retina could be related to the metabolic and physiological advantages, such as a reduction in splicing events during RNA processing, that may be conferred through possession of an additional, intronless rod opsin gene in the form of rho.

  • Retinal projections in mice with inherited retinal degeneration: implications for circadian photoentrainment.

    27 November 2018

    The availability of naturally occurring and transgenic retinal mutants has made the mouse an attractive experimental model to address questions regarding photoentrainment of circadian rhythms. However, very little is known about the retinal cells and the retinal projections to the nuclei of the murine circadian timing system. Furthermore, the effect of inherited retinal degeneration on these projections is not understood. In this report, we have used pseudorabies virus as a neuroanatomical tract tracer in mice to address a series of questions: Which retinal cells mediate circadian responses to light? What is the nature of the retinohypothalamic projection? What is the impact of the inherited retinal disorder, retinal degenerate (rd/rd), on the structures of the photoentrainment pathway? Our results show that a class ofretinal ganglion cell, morphologically similar to the type III ganglion cells of the rat, appears to project to central circadian structures of the mouse. They are few in number and sparsely distributed throughout the retina. The low number and broad distribution of these specialized retinal ganglion cells may be an adaptive mechanism to integrate environmental irradiance without compromising the spatial resolution required for vision. In addition, viral infection of conelike and rodlike photoreceptors and amacrinelike cells suggest that these cells may mediate or contribute to circadian responses to light. Inherited retinal degeneration has no obvious effect on the anatomy of the retinal cells or their projections to the circadian axis. These anatomical findings are consistent with our previous findings showing that aged rd/rd mice are capable of regulating their circadian rhythms by light with unattenuated sensitivity.

  • Light perception in the vertebrate brain: an ultrastructural analysis of opsin- and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-immunoreactive neurons in iguanid lizards.

    27 November 2018

    Recent biochemical and immunocytochemical evidence indicates that a population of circadian and reproductive rhythm-entraining photoreceptors lies in the basal diencephalon of iguanid lizards. Here, we report the results of correlated light and electron microscopy of opsin-immunoreactive cells in the basal brain, and we discuss their ultrastructural relationship to known photoreceptors. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-contacting bipolar neurons in the lizards Anolis carolinensis and Iguana iguana were immunolabeled with antisera generated against vertebrate retinal opsins and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP). Within the brain, opsin-immunoreactive cells were found exclusively in the ependyma of the basal region of the lateral ventricles (adjacent to nucleus paraolfactorius/nucleus ventromedialis and neostriatum/paleostriatum). Cells in the same anatomical location and with the same morphology were labeled with anti-VIP antisera. These cells possessed a dendritic process that extended toward the lateral ventricle, ending in a bulbous terminal that protruded into the ventricle. Axonal processes travelled ventrally and caudally. The entire cell, including the axonal process, exhibited opsin-like and VIP-like immunoreactivity. By light microscopy, opsin-like immunostaining appeared punctate, with immunoreactivity greatest in the bulbous terminal. Opsin- and VIP-immunostained thick sections were resectioned, and individual cells observed by light microscopy were then characterized using electron microscopy. We found that all immunostained cells were morphologically similar and that they were morphologically distinct from neighboring nonimmunoreactive cells. CSF-contacting opsin- and VIP-immunoreactive cells lacked the membranous stacks characteristic of retinal photoreceptors but were ciliated and contained numerous large electron-dense vesicles. Multiple synaptic contacts were made on the soma and putative dendritic processes of opsin- and VIP-immunoreactive CSF-contacting neurons. Our results provide the first ultrastructural characterization of opsin-immunostained encephalic CSF-contacting neurons in a vertebrate animal, and they indicate that these putative photoreceptors share structural features with pineal photoreceptors and with certain invertebrate extraretinal photoreceptors, but they are morphologically and biochemically distinct from visual photoreceptors of the retina.