Presence of melanopsin in human crystalline lens epithelial cells and its role in melatonin synthesis

Exp Eye Res. 2017 Jan:154:168-176. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2016.11.019. Epub 2016 Nov 30.


Melanopsin is a non-image forming photoreceptor known to be present in the retina and it is considered to have light regulated tasks among other functions. In the present work, melanopsin presence in human lens epithelial cells as well as in human lens tissue is described for the first time. Moreover, studying the concentration of melatonin and its synthesising enzyme AANAT proved a clear link between melanopsin activation and the suppression of melatonin synthesis. Melanopsin sensitivity to specific wavelength (465-480 nm, blue) was confirmed after making temporal studies incubating lens epithelial cells under light, red, green, blue and total darkness for 2, 4, 8, 12 h and analysing the concentration of both melatonin and its synthesising enzyme AANAT, discovering that melatonin levels after submitting cells to total darkness are significantly higher to ones submitted to white or specifically blue light (***p < 0.001, n = 6). The involvement of melanopsin in the regulation of melatonin was also determined by using a specific inhibitor AA92593 and by inhibiting melanopsin-induced phospholipase C activation. Under this situation neither AANAT nor melatonin levels changed under light conditions (n = 4, ***p < 0.001). The discovery of melanopsin in the lens opens the possibility of regulating melatonin synthesis with the corresponding implication as an antioxidant substance.

Keywords: Human lens epithelial cells; Light; Melanopsin; Melatonin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arylalkylamine N-Acetyltransferase / biosynthesis*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / cytology
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism*
  • Light
  • Melatonin / biosynthesis*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Photoperiod
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Rod Opsins / metabolism*


  • Rod Opsins
  • melanopsin
  • AANAT protein, human
  • Arylalkylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • Melatonin