In lower vertebrates, cone retinomotor movements occur in response to changes in lighting conditions and to an endogenous circadian clock. In the light, cone myoids contract, while in the dark, they elongate. In order to test the hypothesis that melatonin and dopamine may be involved in the regulation of cone movement, we have used an in vitro eyecup preparation from Xenopus laevis that sustains light- and dark-adaptive cone retinomotor movement. Melatonin mimics darkness by causing cone elongation. Dark- and melatonin-induced cone elongation are blocked by dopamine. Dopamine also stimulates cone contraction in dark-adapted eyecups. The effect of dopamine appears to be mediated specifically by a dopamine receptor, possibly of the D2 type. The dopamine agonist apomorphine and the putative D2 agonist LY171555 induced cone contraction. In contrast, the putative D1 agonist SKF38393-A and specific alpha 1-, alpha 2-, and beta-adrenergic receptor agonists were without effect. Furthermore, the dopamine antagonist spiroperidol not only blocked light-induced cone contraction, but also stimulated cone elongation in the light. These results suggest that dopamine is part of the light signal for cone contraction, and that its suppression is part of the dark signal for cone elongation. Melatonin may affect cone movement indirectly through its influence on the dopaminergic system.

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