A Color Vision Circuit for Non-Image-Forming Vision in the Primate Retina

Curr Biol. 2020 Apr 6;30(7):1269-1274.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.040. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Melanopsin-expressing, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) synchronize our biological clocks with the external light/dark cycle [1]. In addition to photoentrainment, they mediate the effects of light experience as a central modulator of mood, learning, and health [2]. This makes a complete account of the circuity responsible for ipRGCs' light responses essential to understanding their diverse roles in our well-being. Considerable progress has been made in understanding ipRGCs' melanopsin-mediated responses in rodents [3-5]. However, in primates, ipRGCs also have a rare blue-OFF response mediated by an unknown short-wavelength-sensitive (S)-cone circuit [6]. Identifying this S-cone circuit is particularly important because ipRGCs mediate many of the wide-ranging effects of short-wavelength light on human biology. These effects are often attributed to melanopsin, but there is evidence for an S-cone contribution as well [7, 8]. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the S-OFF response is mediated by the S-ON pathway through inhibitory input from an undiscovered S-cone amacrine cell. Using serial electron microscopy in the macaque retina, we reconstructed the neurons and synapses of the S-cone connectome, revealing a novel inhibitory interneuron, an amacrine cell, receiving excitatory glutamatergic input exclusively from S-ON bipolar cells. This S-cone amacrine cell makes highly selective inhibitory synapses onto ipRGCs, resulting in a blue-OFF response. Identification of the S-cone amacrine cell provides the missing component of an evolutionarily ancient circuit using spectral information for non-image forming visual functions.

Keywords: amacrine cell; color opponency; color vision; connectomics; inhibitory interneuron; non-image-forming; photoentrainment; primate retina.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Vision / physiology*
  • Macaca nemestrina / physiology*
  • Male
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*