Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) mediate numerous nonvisual phenomena, including entrainment of the circadian clock to light-dark cycles, pupillary light responsiveness, and light-regulated hormone release. We have applied multielectrode array recording to characterize murine ipRGCs. We find that all ipRGC photosensitivity is melanopsin dependent. At least three populations of ipRGCs are present in the postnatal day 8 (P8) murine retina: slow onset, sensitive, fast off (type I); slow onset, insensitive, slow off (type II); and rapid onset, sensitive, very slow off (type III). Recordings from adult rd/rd retinas reveal cells comparable to postnatal types II and III. Recordings from early postnatal retinas demonstrate intrinsic light responses from P0. Early light responses are transient and insensitive but by P6 show increased photosensitivity and persistence. These results demonstrate that ipRGCs are the first light-sensitive cells in the retina and suggest previously unappreciated diversity in this cell population.
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