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Journal Abstracts on Parietal (Pineal) "Eye" Function in Reptiles

Compiled by Melissa Kaplan


Electroretinogram of the parietal eye of lizards: photoreceptor, glial, and lens cell contributions.
Solessio E, Engbretson GA.Institute for Sensory Research and Department of Bioengineering and Neurosciences, Syracuse University, NY 13244-5290, USA.
Vis Neurosci 1999 Sep-Oct;16(5):895-907

Local electroretinograms (ERGs) were recorded in the parietal eye of Xantusia vigilis. The responses to monochromatic light under dark- and light-adapted conditions were studied. We found that two antagonistic chromatic mechanisms dominate the overall response. With the electrode tip in the lumen of the eye, light stimulation under dark-adapted conditions evoked responses of negative polarity with maximum sensitivity to green light. Intense green background illumination saturated the green-sensitive mechanism, and superposition of a blue stimulus then elicited responses of opposite polarity, driving the potentials back toward the dark resting level. The spectral sensitivities of the two chromatic mechanisms were determined using chromatic adaptation. The lower threshold, green-sensitive mechanism has a maximum sensitivity at 495 nm while the antagonistic mechanism, with its maximal spectral sensitivity at 430 nm, is at least 2 log units less sensitive. The polarity of the ERG recording inverts as the electrode traverses the photoreceptor layer, suggesting that the photoreceptors are the major source of the ERG. This result was confirmed with intracellular recordings from photoreceptors, glial, and lens cells. The glial and lens cells of the parietal eye respond to local changes in [K+]o. Intracellular recordings of the responses of these cells to light stimuli follow time courses similar to changes in extracellular potassium concentrations measured with K+ -specific electrodes. These results suggest that the glial and lens cell membranes are highly permeable to potassium and, therefore, the electrical responses of these cells are evoked by changes in [K+]o elicited by light stimulation of the photoreceptors. Nevertheless, the major component of the parietal eye ERG is the photoreceptor signal. A circuit model of the ERG sources is presented.


Ultrastructure and serotonin immunocytochemistry of the parietal-pineal complex in the Japanese grass lizard, Takydromus tachydromoides.
Ohshima K, Hirai S, Nishida A, Hiramatsu K. Laboratory of Functional Anatomy, Faculty of Agriculture, Shinshu University, Nagano-ken, Japan.
Tissue Cell 1999 Apr;31(2):126-37

The fine structure and immunocytochemical localization of serotonin in the cells of the receptor line were studied in the parietal eye and pineal organ proper of the Japanese grass lizard, Takydromus tachydromoides. Typical photoreceptor cells (PC) were the predominant cell type in the receptor line of the parietal eye, the outer segments of which had regular stacks of numerous disks similar to those of cones. The pineal organ contained relatively few PCs, which showed less well-developed outer segments than those of the parietal eye. In contrast, secretory rudimentary photoreceptor cells (SRPC) accounted for the majority of receptor cells in the pineal organ. These cells were structurally characterized by whorl-like lamellar outer segments and numerous dense-cored vesicles (80-280 nm in diameter). A small number of SRPC were also found in the parietal retina, which were similar to those in the pineal organ. In the parietal-pineal complex, numerous mitochondria located in the PC were larger and rounder than those in the SRPC. In the PC, basal processes prossessed only synaptic ribbons, whereas in the SRPC some of these processes contained synaptic ribbons and others contained dense-cored vesicles, rarely having both. Serotonin-immunoreactive cells were found not only in the pineal organ but also in the parietal eye, which closely resembled the cells of the receptor line in their size and shape. Furthermore, on immunoelectron microscopy for serotonin using the protein A-gold technique, gold particles indicating serotonin-immunoreactive sites were restricted in the core of dense-cored vesicles in the SRPC of the pineal organ. Regional differences in the distributions of the PC, SRPC and serotonin-immunoreactivity were found in the parietal-pineal complex.


Immunoreactive pinopsin in pineal and retinal photoreceptors of various vertebrates.
Fejer Z, Szel A, Rohlich P, Gorcs T, Manzano e Silva MJ, Vigh B. Department of Human Morphology and Developmental Biology, Semmelweis University of Medicine, Budapest, Hungary.
Acta Biol Hung 1997;48(4):463-71

Pinopsin is a pineal specific opsin newly identified in the pineal of birds which has an absorption maximum at 470 nm. As the opsin content of photoreceptors in the pineal complex of several species is not yet known, in the present work, we studied their pinopsin immunoreactivity in various vertebrates from cyclostomes to mammals. We also compared the immunoreactivity of pineal photoreceptors to that of retinal cones and rods of each animal. For the immunocytochemistry, we raised antibodies in rabbits against a 14 amino acids containing part of the chicken pinopsin molecule. The immunoreaction was performed at the electron microscopic level. The pineal organs show a great diversity in vertebrates: there is a pineal organ present from cyclostomes to mammals, in addition, there is a parapineal organ in cyclostomes and fishes, a frontal organ in frogs and a parietal eye in several reptiles. We detected a strong pinopsin immunoreaction on most of the pinealocytes of birds and on the large photoreceptor-type of the pineal of reptiles. Rod-type photoreceptors of the avian retina and a cone of the reptile retina was immunoreactive as well. According to the known absorption maximum of pinopsin, the immunoreactivity may indicate a green-blue light-sensitivity for these photoreceptors. The immunoreactivity was less pronounced or absent in mammals as well as in less differentiated species. The pineal organ of snakes and the parietal eye of reptiles equally failed to exhibit pinopsin immunoreactive photoreceptors, presumably, due to the absence of green-blue light-sensitive photoreceptors of pinopsin-type in these species.


Expression of visual and nonvisual opsins in American chameleon.
Kawamura S, Yokoyama S. Department of Biology, Syracuse University, NY 13244, USA.
Vision Res 1997 Jul;37(14):1867-71

We previously characterized five visual opsin genes of American chameleon (Anolis carolinensis). Here we report its nonvisual opsin gene orthologous to the chicken pineal gland-specific opsin (p-opsin) gene. In the pure-cone American chameleon retina, all visual opsins including rod opsin are expressed. In both pineal and parietal eye, three visual opsins as well as P-opsin are expressed. Although opsins are detected in the pineal glands of a wide variety of vertebrates, Southern analysis suggests that the P-opsin gene is used mainly by birds and reptiles.


Antagonistic chromatic mechanisms in photoreceptors of the parietal eye of lizards.
Solessio E, Engbretson GA. Institute for Sensory Research, Syracuse University, New York 13244.
Nature 1993 Jul 29;364(6436):442-5

Photoreceptors are the first in the chain of neurons that process visual information. In lateral eyes of vertebrates, light hyperpolarizes rod and cone photoreceptors that synapse onto bipolar and horizontal cells in the first synaptic layer of the retina. The sign of the photoreceptor signal is either conserved or inverted in bipolar cells, resulting in chromatically dependent depolarizing and hyperpolarizing responses to visual stimuli. Visual information is then conveyed to the second synaptic layer for encoding and transmission to the brain by ganglion cells. The parietal (third) eye of lizards does not contain bipolar cells or other interneurons. Photoreceptors synapse directly onto ganglion cells and yet, even in the absence of interneurons, antagonistic chromatic mechanisms modulate the ganglion cell responses. We report here that chromatic antagonism in the third eye originates in the chromatically dependent hyperpolarizing and depolarizing response of the photoreceptors to light. We also suggest that the antagonistic nature of these photoresponses may provide lizards with a mechanism for the enhanced detection of dawn and dusk.

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