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Commun Integr Biol. 2010 Sep;3(5):430-2. doi: 10.4161/cib.3.5.12158.

Larval zebrafish turn off their photoreceptors at night.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology; Harvard University; Cambridge, MA USA.


Studies in several vertebrate species have shown that visual sensitivity and a number of other retinal phenomena are regulated by circadian mechanisms. For example, ultra-structural studies of 5 day old zebrafish larvae have shown that synaptic ribbons in photoreceptor terminals undergo dramatic diurnal alterations. These synaptic ribbons are very prominent during the day, but are almost completely absent at night. The implications of this circadian driven process on visual function are not well understood. We recently showed that larval zebrafish essentially lose visual responsiveness at night. This shut-down of retinal function at night is regulated by at least two mechanisms: the disassembly of synaptic ribbons in cone pedicles and a decrease of outer segment activity. Here, we summarize our recently reported observations and further discuss our hypothesis on how this phenomenon of shutting-down retinal function at night may provide a means for zebrafish larvae to conserve energy.


circadian rhythm; photoreceptors; retina; synaptic plasticity; zebrafish

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