Form deprivation and low illuminance of ambient light are known to induce myopia in chicks. Low concentrations of retinal dopamine, a light-driven neurohormone, was previously shown to be associated with form deprivation myopia. In the present study we examined the dependence of retinal dopamine release in chicks on illuminance during light-dark cycles and in continuous light, and the role of retinal dopamine release in illuminance dependent refractive development. Newly hatched chicks (n = 166) were divided into two experimental groups, a dopamine (n = 88) and a refraction group (n = 78). Both groups were further divided into six illumination groups for exposure of chicks to illuminances of 50, 500 or 10,000 lux of incandescent illumination (referred to throughout as low, medium, and high illuminance, respectively), either under a light-dark cycle with lights on between 7 AM and 7 PM or under continuous illumination. For the dopamine experiment, chicks were euthanized and vitreous was extracted on day 14 post-hatching at 7, 8 AM and 1 PM. Vitreal dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and dopamine concentrations were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to electrochemical detection. For the refraction experiment, chicks underwent refraction, keratometry and A-scan ultrasonography on days 30, 60 and 90 post-hatching, and each of those measurements was correlated with vitreal DOPAC concentration measured at 1 PM (representing the index of retinal dopamine release). The results showed that under light-dark cycles, vitreal DOPAC concentration was strongly correlated with log illuminance, and was significantly correlated with the developing refraction, corneal radius of curvature, and axial length values. On day 90, low vitreal DOPAC concentrations were associated with myopia (-2.41 ± 1.23 D), flat cornea, deep anterior and vitreous chambers, and thin lens. Under continuous light, vitreal DOPAC concentrations measured at 1 PM in the low, medium, and high illuminance groups did not differ from the concentrations measured at 8 AM. On day 90, low DOPAC concentrations were associated with emmetropia (+0.63 ± 3.61), steep cornea, and shallow vitreous chamber. We concluded that ambient light over a log illuminance range of 1.69-4 is linearly related to vitreal DOPAC concentration. Under both light-dark cycles and continuous light, the intensity of ambient light regulates the release of retinal dopamine. Refractive development is associated with illuminance dependent dopamine release.
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