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Melanopsin expression in the cornea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2018

ANTON DELWIG
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
SHAWNTA Y. CHANEY
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
ANDREA S. BERTKE
Affiliation:
Proctor Foundation, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
JAN VERWEIJ
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
SUSANA QUIRCE
Affiliation:
Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante, Universidad Miguel Hernandez-CSIC, San Juan de Alicante, Spain
DELAINE D. LARSEN
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
CINDY YANG
Affiliation:
Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
ETHAN BUHR
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
RUSSELL VAN GELDER
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
JUANA GALLAR
Affiliation:
Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante, Universidad Miguel Hernandez-CSIC, San Juan de Alicante, Spain
TODD MARGOLIS
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California Proctor Foundation, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
DAVID R. COPENHAGEN
Affiliation:
Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

A unique class of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in mammalian retinae has been recently discovered and characterized. These neurons can generate visual signals in the absence of inputs from rods and cones, the conventional photoreceptors in the visual system. These light sensitive ganglion cells (mRGCs) express the non-rod, non-cone photopigment melanopsin and play well documented roles in modulating pupil responses to light, photoentrainment of circadian rhythms, mood, sleep and other adaptive light functions. While most research efforts in mammals have focused on mRGCs in retina, recent studies reveal that melanopsin is expressed in non-retinal tissues. For example, light-evoked melanopsin activation in extra retinal tissue regulates pupil constriction in the iris and vasodilation in the vasculature of the heart and tail. As another example of nonretinal melanopsin expression we report here the previously unrecognized localization of this photopigment in nerve fibers within the cornea. Surprisingly, we were unable to detect light responses in the melanopsin-expressing corneal fibers in spite of our histological evidence based on genetically driven markers and antibody staining. We tested further for melanopsin localization in cell bodies of the trigeminal ganglia (TG), the principal nuclei of the peripheral nervous system that project sensory fibers to the cornea, and found expression of melanopsin mRNA in a subset of TG neurons. However, neither electrophysiological recordings nor calcium imaging revealed any light responsiveness in the melanopsin positive TG neurons. Given that we found no light-evoked activation of melanopsin-expressing fibers in cornea or in cell bodies in the TG, we propose that melanopsin protein might serve other sensory functions in the cornea. One justification for this idea is that melanopsin expressed in Drosophila photoreceptors can serve as a temperature sensor.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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Footnotes

Present address: SiteOne Therapeutics, San Francisco, CA.

Present address: Department of Population Health Sciences, Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, VA.

§

Present address: Department of Neurobiology, UCLA.

**

Present address: Department of Ophthalmology, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, MO.

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