The lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis has an all-cone retina. In lizards maintained on a 12-h light:12-h dark (12L:12D) cycle, a burst of cone outer segment (COS) shedding occurs 2 h after light offset (1400 h circadian time) (Young, R.W., 1977, J. Ultrastruct. Res. 61:172-72). In this investigation, we studied the effect of different lighting regimes on the pattern of cone disk shedding in this species. When lizards entrained to a 12L:12D cycle are kept in constant darkness (DD), the shedding peak is advanced approximately 2 h and the magnitude of shedding is reduced to 30% of control. COS increased in mean length from 12 micron in controls to 14 micron after one cycle in DD and maintained this length during a second cycle in DD. In constant light (LL), disk shedding was damped to approximately 10% of control values. Shedding synchrony in LL was also perturbed and therefore cyclic shedding bursts could not be distinguished. During LL there was a much larger increase in COS mean length than in DD. After one cycle of LL, COS length was 15 micron and after two cycles COS length exceeded 17 micron. When lizards entrained to 12L:12D are shifted to a 6L:18D regimen, the first shedding cycle is biphasic. The first peak of 5% shedding occurs 2 h after light offset whereas a second larger peak (13%) occurs according to the entrained schedule (1400 h). This manipulation separates out a dark-triggered and circadian shedding component, which is normally superimposed in lizards entrained to a 12L:12D cycle. When entrained lizards are placed in 36 h of LL followed by light offset, the peak shedding response after light offset is double the control response (53% vs. 27%). After 30 h of LL (lights off 90 degrees out of phase), there is a biphasic shedding response similar to the 6L:18D regimen although this time the dark-triggered shedding component is greater in magnitude then the circadian component. COS turnover is estimated by extrapolating from COS mean length increases during LL. From this method we obtained a 2.7-micron increase in COS length during each day in LL. If COS growth is not augmented during LL, this would yield a 4-5-d turnover time for the average 12.5-micron COS.

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