We investigated the occurrence of circadian rhythms in retinomotor movements and retinal sensitivity in the green sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus. When green sunfish were kept in constant darkness, cone photoreceptors exhibited circadian retinomotor movements; rod photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) pigment granules did not. Cones elongated during subjective night and contracted during subjective day. These results corroborate those of Burnside and Ackland (1984. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 25:539-545). Electroretinograms (ERGs) recorded in constant darkness in response to dim flashes (lambda = 640 nm) exhibited a greater amplitude during subjective night than during subjective day. The nighttime increase in the ERG amplitude corresponded to a 3-10-fold increase in retinal sensitivity. The rhythmic changes in the ERG amplitude continued in constant darkness with a period of approximately 24 h, which indicates that the rhythm is generated by a circadian oscillator. The spectral sensitivity of the ERG recorded in constant darkness suggests that cones contribute to retinal responses during both day and night. Thus, the elongation of cone myoids during the night does not abolish the response of the cones. To examine the role of retinal efferents in generating retinal circadian rhythms, we cut the optic nerve. This procedure did not abolish the rhythms of retinomotor movement or of the ERG amplitude, but it did reduce the magnitude of the nighttime phases of both rhythms. Our results suggest that more than one endogenous oscillator regulates the retinal circadian rhythms in green sunfish. Circadian signals controlling the rhythms may be either generated within the eye or transferred to the eye via a humoral pathway.

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