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Poult Sci. 2015 Apr;94(4):786-98. doi: 10.3382/ps.2014-4370.

Exploring avian deep-brain photoreceptors and their role in activating the neuroendocrine regulation of gonadal development.

Author information

1
Department of Poultry Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 72701 wkuenzel@uark.edu.
2
Department of Poultry Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 72701.
3
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.

Abstract

In the eyes of mammals, specialized photoreceptors called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGC) have been identified that sense photoperiodic or daylight exposure, providing them over time with seasonal information. Detectors of photoperiods are critical in vertebrates, particularly for timing the onset of reproduction each year. In birds, the eyes do not appear to monitor photoperiodic information; rather, neurons within at least 4 different brain structures have been proposed to function in this capacity. Specialized neurons, called deep brain photoreceptors (DBP), have been found in the septum and 3 hypothalamic areas. Within each of the 4 brain loci, one or more of 3 unique photopigments, including melanopsin, neuropsin, and vertebrate ancient opsin, have been identified. An experiment was designed to characterize electrophysiological responses of neurons proposed to be avian DBP following light stimulation. A second study used immature chicks raised under short-day photoperiods and transferred to long day lengths. Gene expression of photopigments was then determined in 3 septal-hypothalamic regions. Preliminary electrophysiological data obtained from patch-clamping neurons in brain slices have shown that bipolar neurons in the lateral septal organ responded to photostimulation comparable with mammalian ipRGC, particularly by showing depolarization and a delayed, slow response to directed light stimulation. Utilizing real-time reverse-transcription PCR, it was found that all 3 photopigments showed significantly increased gene expression in the septal-hypothalamic regions in chicks on the third day after being transferred to long-day photoperiods. Each dissected region contained structures previously proposed to have DBP. The highly significant increased gene expression for all 3 photopigments on the third, long-day photoperiod in brain regions proposed to contain 4 structures with DBP suggests that all 3 types of DBP (melanopsin, neuropsin, and vertebrate ancient opsin) in more than one neural site in the septal-hypothalamic area are involved in reproductive function. The neural response to light of at least 2 of the proposed DBP in the septal/hypothalamic region resembles the primitive, functional, sensory ipRGC well characterized in mammals.

KEYWORDS:

hypothalamus; photopigment; septum; thyroid stimulating hormone β and follicle-stimulating hormone β; thyrotropin-releasing hormone and gonadotropin-releasing hormone-1

PMID:
25828571
PMCID:
PMC4990983
DOI:
10.3382/ps.2014-4370
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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