Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 529–560 | Cite as

Rhythmic regulation of retinal melatonin: Metabolic pathways, neurochemical mechanisms, and the ocular circadian clock

  • Gregory M. Cahill
  • Michael S. Grace
  • Joseph C. Besharse


  1. 1.

    Current knowledge of the mechanisms of circadian and photic regulation of retinal melatonin in vertebrates is reviewed, with a focus on recent progress and unanswered questions.

  2. 2.

    Retinal melatonin synthesis is elevated at night, as a result of acute suppression by light and rhythmic regulation by a circadian oscillator, or clock, which has been localized to the eye in some species.

  3. 3.

    The development of suitablein vitro retinal preparations, particularly the eyecup from the African clawed frog,Xenopus laevis, has enabled identification of neural, cellular, and molecular mechanisms of retinal melatonin regulation.

  4. 4.

    Recent findings indicate that retinal melatonin levels can be regulated at multiple points in indoleamine metabolic pathways, including synthesis and availability of the precursor serotonin, activity of the enzyme serotoninN-acetyltransferase, and a novel pathway for degradation of melatonin within the retina.

  5. 5.

    Retinal dopamine appears to act through D2 receptors as a signal for light in this system, both in the acute suppression of melatonin synthesis and in the entrainment of the ocular circadian oscillator.

  6. 6.

    A recently developedin vitro system that enables high-resolution measurement of retinal circadian rhythmicity for mechanistic analysis of the circadian oscillator is described, along with preliminary results that suggest its potential for elucidating general circadian mechanisms.

  7. 7.

    A model describing hypothesized interactions among circadian, neurochemical, and cellular mechanisms in regulation of retinal melatonin is presented.


Key words

Melatonin retina circadian rhythm serotoninN-acetyltransferase tryptophan hydroxylase melatonin deacetylase D2 dopamine receptor cyclic AMP 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory M. Cahill
    • 1
  • Michael S. Grace
    • 1
  • Joseph C. Besharse
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Cell BiologyThe University of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA

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