by Hugo Calligaro, Christine Coutanson, Raymond P. Najjar, Nadia Mazzaro, Howard M. Cooper, Nasser Haddjeri, Marie-Paule Felder-Schmittbuhl, Ouria Dkhissi-Benyahya

While rods, cones, and intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin-containing ganglion cells (ipRGCs) all drive light entrainment of the master circadian pacemaker of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, recent studies have proposed that entrainment of the mouse retinal clock is exclusively mediated by a UV-sensitive photopigment, neuropsin (OPN5). Here, we report that the retinal circadian clock can be phase shifted by short duration and relatively low-irradiance monochromatic light in the visible part of the spectrum, up to 520 nm. Phase shifts exhibit a classical photon dose-response curve. Comparing the response of mouse models that specifically lack middle-wavelength (MW) cones, melanopsin, and/or rods, we found that only the absence of rods prevented light-induced phase shifts of the retinal clock, whereas light-induced phase shifts of locomotor activity are normal. In a “rod-only” mouse model, phase shifting response of the retinal clock to light is conserved. At shorter UV wavelengths, our results also reveal additional recruitment of short-wavelength (SW) cones and/or OPN5. These findings suggest a primary role of rod photoreceptors in the light response of the retinal clock in mammals.

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