Age-related deterioration of rod vision in mice

Alexander V. Kolesnikov, Jie Fan, Rosalie K. Crouch, Vladimir J. Kefalov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Even in healthy individuals, aging leads to deterioration in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, visual field, and dark adaptation. Little is known about the neural mechanisms that drive the age-related changes of the retina and, more specifically, photoreceptors. According to one hypothesis, the age-related deterioration in rod function is due to the limited availability of 11-cis-retinal for rod pigment formation. To determine how aging affects rod photoreceptors and to test the retinoid-deficiency hypothesis, we compared the morphological and functional properties of rods of adult and aged B6D2F1/J mice. We found that the number of rods and the length of their outer segments were significantly reduced in 2.5-year-old mice compared with 4-month-old animals. Aging also resulted in a twofold reduction in the total level of opsin in the retina. Behavioral tests revealed that scotopic visual acuity and contrast sensitivity were decreased by twofold in aged mice, and rod ERG recordings demonstrated reduced amplitudes of both a- and b-waves. Sensitivity of aged rods determined from single-cell recordings was also decreased by 1.5-fold, corresponding to not more than 1% free opsin in these photoreceptors, and kinetic parameters of dim flash response were not altered. Notably, the rate of rod dark adaptation was unaffected by age. Thus, our results argue against age-related deficiency of 11-cis-retinal in the B6D2F1/J mouse rod visual cycle. Surprisingly, the level of cellular dark noise was increased in aged rods, providing an alternative mechanism for their desensitization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11222-11231
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 18 2010


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