Inner retinal circadian clocks and non-visual photoreceptors: Novel players in the circadian system

Mario E. Guido, Eduardo Garbarino-Pico, Maria Ana Contin, Diego J. Valdez, Paula S. Nieto, Daniela M. Verra, Victoria A. Acosta-Rodriguez, Nuria de Zavalía, Ruth E. Rosenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Daily and annual changes in ambient illumination serve as specific stimuli that associate light with time and regulate the physiology of the organism through the eye. The eye acts as a dual sense organ linking light and vision, and detecting light that provides specific stimuli for non-classical photoreceptors located in the inner retina. These photoreceptors convey information to the master circadian pacemaker, the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). Responsible for sensing the light that regulates several non-visual functions (i.e. behavior, pupil reflex, sleep, and pineal melatonin production), the retina plays a key role in the temporal symphony orchestra playing the musical score of life: it is intrinsically rhythmic in its physiological and metabolic activities. We discuss here recent evidence in support of the hypothesis that retinal oscillators distributed over different cell populations may act as clocks, inducing changes in the visual and circadian system according to the time of the day. Significant progress has recently been made in identifying photoreceptors/photopigments localized in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that set circadian rhythms and modulate non-visual functions. Autonomous retinal and brain oscillators could have a more complex organization than previously recognized, involving a network of "RGC clock/SCN clock cross-talk" The convergence of oscillatory and photoreceptive capacities of retinal cells could deeply impact on the circadian system, which in turn may be severely impaired in different retinal pathologies. The aim of this review is to discuss the state of the art on inner retinal cell involvement in the light and temporal regulation of health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)484-504
Number of pages21
JournalProgress in Neurobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Circadian rhythms
  • Clock genes
  • Dopamine
  • Ganglion Cells
  • Lipids
  • Melatonin
  • Metabolic oscillators
  • Non-visual functions
  • Photoreceptors
  • Phototransduction
  • Retina
  • Retinal diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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