Photoreceptors are the key functional cell types responsible for the initiation of vision in the retina. Phototransduction involves isomerization and conversion of vitamin A compounds, known as retinoids, and their recycling through the visual cycle. We demonstrate a functional readout of the visual cycle in photoreceptors within stem cell-derived retinal organoids and mouse retinal explants based on spectral and lifetime changes in autofluorescence of the visual cycle retinoids after exposure to light or chemical stimuli. We also apply a simultaneous two- and three-photon excitation method that provides specific signals and increases contrast between these retinoids, allowing for reliable detection of their presence and conversion within photoreceptors. This multiphoton imaging technique resolves the slow dynamics of visual cycle reactions and can enable high-throughput functional screening of retinal tissues and organoid cultures with single-cell resolution.
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