To investigate the role of retinal-based pigments (opsins) in circadian photoreception in mice, animals mutated in plasma retinol binding protein were placed on a vitamin A-free diet and tested for photic induction of gene expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. After 10 months on the vitamin A-free diet, the majority of mice contained no detectable retinal in their eyes. These mice demonstrated fully intact photic signaling to the suprachiasmatic nucleus as measured by acute mPer mRNA induction in the suprachiasmatic nucleus in response to bright or dim light. The data suggest that a non-opsin pigment is the primary circadian photoreceptor in the mouse.
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