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Jens Hannibal, Peter Hindersson, Jens Østergaard, Birgitte Georg, Steffen Heegaard, Philip Just Larsen, Jan Fahrenkrug; Melanopsin Is Expressed in PACAP-Containing Retinal Ganglion Cells of the Human Retinohypothalamic Tract. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2004;45(11):4202-4209. doi: 10.1167/iovs.04-0313.
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purpose. The putative circadian photoreceptor melanopsin is found in rodents in a subpopulation of intrinsic light-sensitive retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) constituting the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT). The study was conducted to determine whether melanopsin is expressed in the human retina and costored with the neuropeptide pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP), a marker for the RHT, projecting to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Furthermore, whether melanopsin expression is conserved in retinas of blind patients with severe retinal degeneration was investigated.
methods. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry was used to demonstrate melanopsin synthesis in human eyes of 17 donors and two postmortem hypothalami containing the SCN. The coexistence of melanopsin and PACAP in elements of the retinohypothalamic tract was studied by dual-labeling immunocytochemistry.
results. Melanopsin expression was found in a subpopulation of RGCs located in the ganglion cell layer and displaced in the inner nuclear cell layer. Melanopsin-containing cells comprised approximately 0. 8% of all RGCs, with a distinct morphology characterized by two to four dendritic processes constituting a panretinal network. Melanopsin immunoreactivity was primary present at perikaryal boundaries and neuronal processes and to some extent also in the cytoplasm. PACAP and melanopsin were colocalized in the RGCs and PACAP-containing nerve fibers, seemingly innervating the retinorecipient part of the SCN. Melanopsin-expressing RGCs were conserved in retinas of blind patients with severe degeneration of the outer and/or inner layers.
conclusions. Given the expression of melanopsin in PACAP-containing RGCs of the human RHT, this photoreceptor is a likely first base in the chain of events leading to photoentrainment of both normal and blind people.
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