Adenosine modulates light responses of rat retinal ganglion cell photoreceptors througha cAMP-mediated pathway

J Physiol. 2014 Oct 1;592(19):4201-20. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2014.276220. Epub 2014 Jul 18.


Adenosine is an established neuromodulator in the mammalian retina, with A1 adenosine receptors being especially prevalent in the innermost ganglion cell layer. Activation of A1 receptors causes inhibition of adenylate cyclase, decreases in intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels and inhibition of protein kinase A (PKA). In this work, our aim was to characterize the effects of adenosine on the light responses of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) and to determine whether these photoreceptors are subject to neuromodulation through intracellular cAMP-related signalling pathways. Using multielectrode array recordings from postnatal and adult rat retinas, we demonstrated that adenosine significantly shortened the duration of ipRGC photoresponses and reduced the number of light-evoked spikes fired by these neurons. The effects were A1 adenosine receptor-mediated, and the expression of this receptor on melanopsin-containing ipRGCs was confirmed by calcium imaging experiments on isolated cells in purified cultures. While inhibition of the cAMP/PKA pathway by adenosine shortened ipRGC light responses, stimulation of this pathway with compounds such as forskolin had the opposite effect and lengthened the duration of ipRGC spiking. Our findings reveal that the modification of ipRGC photoresponses through a cAMP/PKA pathway is a general feature of rat ganglion cell photoreceptors, and this pathway can be inhibited through activation of A1 receptors by adenosine. As adenosine levels in the retina rise at night, adenosinergic modulation of ipRGCs may serve as an internal regulatory mechanism to limit transmission of nocturnal photic signals by ipRGCs to the brain. Targeting retinal A1 adenosine receptors for ipRGC inhibition represents a potential therapeutic target for sleep disorders and migraine-associated photophobia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects*
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adenosine / pharmacology*
  • Adenosine A1 Receptor Agonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism*
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Photoreceptor Cells / drug effects*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Adenosine A1 / metabolism
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Adenosine A1 Receptor Agonists
  • Receptor, Adenosine A1
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Adenosine