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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Dec 19;97(26):14697-702.

Functional redundancy of cryptochromes and classical photoreceptors for nonvisual ocular photoreception in mice.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


The daily light-dark (LD) cycle exerts a powerful influence on the temporal organization of behavior and physiology. Much of this influence is preserved in behaviorally blind retinally degenerate mice; the photoreceptors underlying this nonvisual phototransduction are unknown. The mammalian eye contains at least two classes of photoactive pigments, the vitamin A-based opsins and the vitamin B(2)-based cryptochromes. To genetically define the roles of these pigments in light modulation of behavior, we generated rd/rd;mCry1(-)/mCry1(-);mCry2(-)/mCry2(-) mutant mice lacking rods and most cones as well as both cryptochrome proteins. The response of the mutant mouse to photic input was analyzed at both behavioral and molecular levels. Behaviorally, mice lacking either classical photoreceptors or cryptochromes exhibited strongly rhythmic locomotor responses to 10 and 100 lux daily LD 12 h/12-h cycles; however, triple mutant mice carrying both cryptochrome and retinal degenerate mutations were nearly arrhythmic under both LD cycles and in constant darkness. At the molecular level, the light induction of c-fos transcription in the suprachiasmatic nucleus was markedly reduced in the triple mutant mouse compared with either rd/rd or cryptochrome mutant mice. These data indicate that classical opsins and cryptochromes serve functionally redundant roles in the transduction of light information to behavioral modulation and suggest a pleomorphic role for cryptochromes in both photoreception and central clock mechanism.

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