Circadian photoreception in humans and mice

Mol Interv. 2002 Dec;2(8):484-92. doi: 10.1124/mi.2.8.484.


Circadian rhythms are the endogenous oscillations, occurring with a periodicity of approximately twenty-four hours, in the biochemical and behavioral functions of organisms. In mammals, the phase and period of the rhythm are synchronized to the daily light-dark cycle by light input through the eye. Certain retinal degenerative diseases affecting the photoreceptor cells, both rods and cones, in the outer retina reveal that classical opsins (i.e., rhodopsin and color opsins located in these cells) are essential for vision, but are not required for circadian photoreception. The mammalian cryptochromes and melanopsin (and possibly other opsin family pigments) have been proposed as circadian photoreceptor pigments that exist in the inner retina. Genetic analysis indicates that the cryptochromes, which contain flavin and folate as the light-absorbing cofactors, are the primary circadian photoreceptors. The classical photoreceptors in the outer retina, and melanopsin or other minor opsins in the inner retina, may perform redundant functions in circadian rhythmicity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Cryptochromes
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Eye Proteins*
  • Flavoproteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Models, Biological
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / physiology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Rod Opsins / physiology


  • Cryptochromes
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Flavoproteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Rod Opsins
  • cry protein, Drosophila
  • melanopsin