In the fish retina, retinomotor movement, spinule formation, and alteration of connexon density within gap junctions occur in response to changes in ambient light conditions. All of these morphological parameters can also be influenced by the application of dopamine. This study examines whether the morphological alterations of these structures are correlated with the activity of endogenous dopamine during an entrained 12-h light/12-h dark cycle and after 1-h sort-term adaptation periods.
The two measured parameters of retinomotor movement, cone inner segment length and pigment dispersion, were well-correlated with endogenous cyclic dopamine activity. However, retinomotor movement was initiated already at the end of the entrained dark period, before the onset of light and before the onset of dopamine turnover. Furthermore, a 1-h dark-adaptation period in the middle of the light phase reduced dopamine activity but did not affect retinomotor movement. At the switch from light to dark and after a 1-h light period at midnight retinomotor movement correlated exactly with dopamine turnover and illumination conditions. The formation of spinules was correlated with dopaminergic activity during all phases of the light/dark cycle and during short-term adaptation periods. Spinules were expressed in the light when dopamine activity was high and they were retracted when dopamine activity was reduced during darkness. Connexon density of horizontal cell gap junctions showed a weaker correlation with the endogenous dopamine turnover. In this case, a high activity of endogenous dopamine was paralleled by a high density of connexons.
Our results suggest that endogenous dopamine is involved in the cyclic regulation of the observed morphological alterations and that dopamine is part of the light signal for these mechanisms.