The mammalian retina as a clock
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Many physiological, cellular, and biochemical parameters in the retina of vertebrates show daily rhythms that, in many cases, also persist under constant conditions. This demonstrates that they are driven by a circadian pacemaker. The presence of an autonomous circadian clock in the retina of vertebrates was first demonstrated in Xenopus laevis and then, several years later, in mammals. In X. laevis and in chicken, the retinal circadian pacemaker has been localized in the photoreceptor layer, whereas in mammals, such information is not yet available. Recent advances in molecular techniques have led to the identification of a group of genes that are believed to constitute the molecular core of the circadian clock. These genes are expressed in the retina, although with a slightly different 24-h profile from that observed in the central circadian pacemaker. This result suggests that some difference (at the molecular level) may exist between the retinal clock and the clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of hypothalamus. The present review will focus on the current knowledge of the retinal rhythmicity and the mechanisms responsible for its control.
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