Adaptation to steady light by intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells

Michael Tri Hoang Do, King Wai Yau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) are recently discovered photoreceptors in the mammalian eye. These photoreceptors mediate primarily nonimage visual functions, such as pupillary light reflex and circadian photoentrainment, which are generally expected to respond to the absolute light intensity. The classical rod and cone photoreceptors, on the other hand, mediate image vision by signaling contrast, accomplished by adaptation to light. Experiments by others have indicated that the ipRGCs do, in fact, light-adapt. We found the same but, in addition, have now quantified this light adaptation for the M1 ipRGC subtype. Interestingly, in incremental-flash-on-background experiments, the ipRGC's receptor current showed a flash sensitivity that adapted in background light according to the Weber-Fechner relation, well known to describe the adaptation behavior of rods and cones. Part of this light adaptation by ipRGCs appeared to be triggered by a Ca2+ influx, in that the flash response elicited in the absence of extracellular Ca2+ showed a normal rising phase but a slower decay phase, resulting in longer time to peak and higher sensitivity. There is, additionally, a prominent Ca2+-independent component of light adaptation not typically seen in rods and cones or in invertebrate rhabdomeric photoreceptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7470-7475
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - Apr 30 2013


  • Gain control
  • Mammal
  • Melanopsin
  • Phototransduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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