In this study, we investigated the potency of dopamine for being an intrinsic signal for cyclic events in the fish retina. Dopaminergic activity was measured during different light/dark cycles, during continuous darkness, and during short-term light and dark adaptation within 1 h. During a 12-h light/12-h dark cycle, the total content of endogenous dopamine was high during the dark phase and low during the light phase. The potassium-induced release of endogenous dopamine followed a parallel time course. The concentration of the dopamine breakdown product 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), which reflects the endogenous dopaminergic activity, was high during the light phase and low during the dark phase. Similar alterations occurred in accelerated 6-h light/6-h dark cycles, again indicating a strong coupling of dopaminergic activity with light. The cyclic alterations in the total endogenous dopamine content persisted during continuous darkness after an entrainment of the fish to a 12-h light/12-h dark cycle. Although the magnitude of the change was weaker, changes in dopamine content, potassium-induced dopamine release, and DOPAC were also measured during 1 h of light or dark adaptation. During a 1-h period of dark adaptation, the total content of dopamine and the potassium-induced release of endogenous dopamine increased, while DOPAC values decreased. These values changed in the opposite direction during 1 h of light adaptation.
Our findings strongly suggest that dopamine is the intrinsic signal for light during both the light and dark phases and during short-term adaptation. Light seems to be the major trigger for dopaminergic activity within the fish retina. An endogenous clock might participate in the control of the dopaminergic activity. This has to be, however, confirmed by further investigations.