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Science 298 (5601): 2211-2213

Copyright © 2002 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Role of Melanopsin in Circadian Responses to Light

Norman F. Ruby,1* Thomas J. Brennan,2 Xinmin Xie,2 Vinh Cao,1 Paul Franken,1 H. Craig Heller,1 Bruce F. O'Hara1*

Melanopsin has been proposed as an important photoreceptive molecule for the mammalian circadian system. Its importance in this role was tested in melanopsin knockout mice. These mice entrained to a light/dark cycle, phase-shifted after a light pulse, and increased circadian period when light intensity increased. Induction of the immediate-early gene c-fos was observed after a nighttime light pulse in both wild-type and knockout mice. However, the magnitude of these behavioral responses in knockout mice was 40% lower than in wild-type mice. Although melanopsin is not essential for the circadian clock to receive photic input, it contributes significantly to the magnitude of photic responses.

1 Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
2 Deltagen, Inc., Redwood City, CA 94063, USA.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: ruby{at}, bfo{at}

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