Diversity of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells: circuits and functions

Marcos L. Aranda, Tiffany M. Schmidt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The melanopsin-expressing, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) are a relatively recently discovered class of atypical ganglion cell photoreceptor. These ipRGCs are a morphologically and physiologically heterogeneous population that project widely throughout the brain and mediate a wide array of visual functions ranging from photoentrainment of our circadian rhythms, to driving the pupillary light reflex to improve visual function, to modulating our mood, alertness, learning, sleep/wakefulness, regulation of body temperature, and even our visual perception. The presence of melanopsin as a unique molecular signature of ipRGCs has allowed for the development of a vast array of molecular and genetic tools to study ipRGC circuits. Given the emerging complexity of this system, this review will provide an overview of the genetic tools and methods used to study ipRGCs, how these tools have been used to dissect their role in a variety of visual circuits and behaviors in mice, and identify important directions for future study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-907
Number of pages19
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Circadian
  • Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells
  • Melanopsin
  • Non-image-forming visual pathway
  • Pattern vision
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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