Circadian rhythmicity in dopamine content of mammalian retina: role of the photoreceptors

J Neurochem. 2002 Oct;83(1):211-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.2002.01149.x.


Dopamine, the predominant retinal catecholamine, is a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator known to regulate light-adaptive retinal processes. Because dopamine influences several rhythmic events in the retina it is also a candidate for a retinal circadian signal. Using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), we have tested whether dopamine and its breakdown products are rhythmic in Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats with normal and dystrophic retinas. In both normal and mutant animals entrained to a 12-h light/12-h dark cycle, we found robust daily rhythms of dopamine and its two major metabolites. To address circadian rhythmicity of dopamine content, rats were entrained to light/dark cycles and released into constant darkness, using the circadian rhythm of wheel-running activity as a marker of each individual's circadian phase. Circadian rhythms of dopamine and metabolite content persisted in both wild type and retinally degenerate animals held for two weeks in constant darkness. Our results demonstrate for the first time clear circadian rhythms of dopamine content and turnover in a free-running mammal, and suggest that rods and cones are not required for dopamine rhythmicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Homovanillic Acid / metabolism
  • Photoperiod
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics
  • Retinal Degeneration / metabolism
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology


  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid
  • Dopamine
  • Homovanillic Acid