Melanopsin mediates light-dependent relaxation in blood vessels

Academic Article


  • Melanopsin (opsin4; Opn4), a non-image-forming opsin, has been linked to a number of behavioral responses to light, including circadian photo-entrainment, light suppression of activity in nocturnal animals, and alertness in diurnal animals. We report a physiological role for Opn4 in regulating blood vessel function, particularly in the context of photorelaxation. Using PCR, we demonstrate that Opn4 (a classic G protein-coupled receptor) is expressed in blood vessels. Force-tension myography demonstrates that vessels from Opn4-/- mice fail to display photorelaxation, which is also inhibited by an Opn4-specific small-molecule inhibitor. The vasorelaxation is wavelength-specific, with a maximal response at ∼430-460 nm. Photorelaxation does not involve endothelial-, nitric oxide-, carbon monoxide-, or cytochrome p450-derived vasoactive prostanoid signaling but is associatedwith vascular hyperpolarization, as shown by intracellular membrane potential measurements. Signaling is both soluble guanylyl cyclase- and phosphodiesterase 6-dependent but protein kinase G-independent. β-Adrenergic receptor kinase 1 (βARK 1 or GRK2) mediates desensitization of photorelaxation, which is greatly reduced by GRK2 inhibitors. Blue light (455 nM) regulates tail artery vasoreactivity ex vivo and tail blood blood flow in vivo, supporting a potential physiological role for this signaling system. This endogenous opsin-mediated, lightactivated molecular switch for vasorelaxation might be harnessed for therapy in diseases in which altered vasoreactivity is a significant pathophysiologic contributor.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sikka G; Hussmann GP; Pandey D; Cao S; Hori D; Park JT; Steppan J; Kim JH; Barodka V; Myers AC
  • Start Page

  • 17977
  • End Page

  • 17982
  • Volume

  • 111
  • Issue

  • 50