Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


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Pickard GE, Baver SB, Ogilvie MD, Sollars PJ (2009) Light-Induced Fos Expression in Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells in Melanopsin Knockout (Opn4-/-) Mice. PLoS ONE 4(3): e4984. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004984


Copyright 2009 Pickard et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. Used by permission.


Retinal ganglion cells that express the photopigment melanopsin are intrinsically photosensitive (ipRGCs) and exhibit robust synaptically driven ON-responses to light, yet they will continue to depolarize in response to light when all synaptic input from rod and cone photoreceptors is removed. The light-evoked increase in firing of classical ganglion cells is determined by synaptic input from ON-bipolar cells in the proximal sublamina of the inner plexiform layer. OFF-bipolar cells synapse with ganglion cell dendrites in the distal sublamina of the inner plexiform layer. Of the several types of ipRGC that have been described, M1 ipRGCs send dendrites exclusively into the OFF region of the inner plexiform layer where they stratify near the border of the inner nuclear layer. We tested whether M1 ipRGCs with dendrites restricted to the OFF sublamina of the inner plexiform layer receive synaptic ON-bipolar input by examining light-induced gene expression in vivo using melanopsin knockout mice. Mice in which both copies of the melanopsin gene (opn4) have been replaced with the tau-lacZ gene (homozygous tau-lacZ+/+ knockin mice) are melanopsin knockouts (opn4-/-) but M1 ipRGCs are specifically identified by their expression of b-galactosidase. Approximately 60% of M1 ipRGCs in Opn4-/- mice exposed to 3 hrs of light expressed c-Fos; no b-galactosidase-positive RGCs expressed c-Fos in the dark. Intraocular application of L-AP4, a compound which blocks transmission of visual signals between photoreceptors and ON-bipolar cells significantly reduced light-evoked c-Fos expression in M1 ipRGCs compared to saline injected eyes (66% saline vs 27% L-AP4). The results are the first description of a light-evoked response in an ipRGC lacking melanopsin and provide in vivo confirmation of previous in vitro observations illustrating an unusual circuit in the retina in which ganglion cells sending dendrites to the OFF sublamina of the inner plexiform layer receive excitatory synaptic input from ON-bipolar cells.