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Vision Res. 1995 May;35(9):1247-64.

Studies on the role of the retinal dopamine/melatonin system in experimental refractive errors in chickens.

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University Eye Hospital, Department of Pathophysiology of Vision and Neuroophthalmology, Tübingen, Germany.


We have found that development of both deprivation-induced and lens-induced refractive errors in chickens implicates changes of the diurnal growth rhythms in the eye (Fig. 1). Because the major diurnal oscillator in the eye is expressed by the retinal dopamine/melatonin system, effects of drugs were studied that change retinal dopamine and/or serotonin levels. Vehicle-injected and drug-injected eyes treated with either translucent occluders or lenses were compared to focus on visual growth mechanisms. Retinal biogenic amine levels were measured at the end of each experiment by HPLC with electrochemical detection. For reserpine (which was most extensively studied) electroretinograms were recorded to test retinal function [Fig. 3 (C)] and catecholaminergic and serotonergic retinal neurons were observed by immunohistochemical labelling [Fig. 3(D)]. Deprivation myopia was readily altered by a single intravitreal injection of drugs that affected retinal dopamine or serotonin levels; reserpine which depleted both serotonin and dopamine stores blocked deprivation myopia very efficiently [Fig. 3(A)], whereas 5,7-dihydroxy-tryptamine (5,7-DHT), sulpiride, melatonin and Sch23390 could enhance deprivation myopia (Table 1, Fig. 5). In contrast to other procedures that were previously employed to block deprivation myopia (6-OHDA injections or continuous light) and which had no significant effect on lens-induced refractive errors, reserpine also affected lens-induced changes in eye growth. At lower doses, the effect was selective for negative lenses (Fig. 4). We found that the individual retinal dopamine levels were very variable among individuals but were correlated in both eyes of an animal; a similar variability was previously found with regard to deprivation myopia. To test a hypothesis raised by Li, Schaeffel, Kohler and Zrenner [(1992) Visual Neuroscience, 9, 483-492] that individual dopamine levels might determine the susceptibility to deprivation myopia, refractive errors were correlated with dopamine levels in occluded and untreated eyes of monocularly deprived chickens (Fig. 6). The hypothesis was rejected. Although it has been previously found that the static retinal tissue levels of dopamine are not altered by lens treatment, subtle changes in the ratio of DOPAC to dopamine were detected in the present study. The result indicates that retinal dopamine might be implicated also in lens-induced growth changes. Surprisingly, the changes were in the opposite direction for deprivation and negative lenses although both produce myopia. Currently, there is evidence that deprivation-induced and lens-induced refractive errors in chicks are produced by different mechanisms. However, findings (1), (3) and (5) suggest that there may also be common features. Although it has not yet been resolved how both mechanisms merge to produce the appropriate axial eye growth rates, we propose a scheme (Fig. 7).

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