Functional diversity of human intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells

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Science  06 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6470, pp. 1251-1255
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz0898

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Sensing light without forming images

In the rodent retina, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) entrain circadian rhythms, modulate mood, and signal pupillary accommodation. Such responses are light-driven but not image-based. Working with donated human organ tissues, Mure et al. used electrophysiological approaches to identify ipRGCs in the human retina. The human retina has more cones than the retinas of nocturnal mice and rats. Differences in sensitivity, latency, and duration of responses identified three subtypes of human ipRGCs.

Science, this issue p. 1251


Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) are a subset of cells that participate in image-forming and non–image-forming visual responses. Although both functional and morphological subtypes of ipRGCs have been described in rodents, parallel functional subtypes have not been identified in primate or human retinas. In this study, we used a human organ donor preparation method to measure human ipRGCs’ photoresponses. We discovered three functional ipRGC subtypes with distinct sensitivities and responses to light. The response of one ipRGC subtype appeared to depend on exogenous chromophore supply, and this response is conserved in both human and mouse retinas. Rods and cones also provided input to ipRGCs; however, each subtype integrated outer retina light signals in a distinct fashion.

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