Melatonin is synthesized rhythmically under control of circadian oscillators by the retinas of non-mammalian vertebrates. Here we report that the retinas of some strains of laboratory mice exhibit robust circadian rhythms of melatonin synthesis which can be entrained by light in vitro. The rd mutation results in progressive loss of the rod and later cone photoreceptors. In mice homozygous for rd retinal melatonin synthesis is rhythmic at postnatal day 28 but not in older animals. Apparently rod photoreceptors are necessary for the expression of the circadian rhythm of melatonin synthesis but not for the synthesis itself. The many genetic and molecular tools available in the mouse can now be applied to analysis of the retinal circadian oscillator.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.