Expression of deep brain photoreceptors in the Pekin drake: a possible role in the maintenance of testicular function

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Several putative deep brain photoreceptors (DBPs) have been identified, such as melanopsin, opsin 5, and vertebrate ancient opsin. The aim of this study was to elucidate the role of DBPs in gonadal regulation in the Pekin drake. As previously reported, we observed opsin-like immunoreactivity (-ir) in the lateral septum (LS), melanopsin-ir in the premammillary nucleus (PMM), and opsin 5-ir in the periventricular organ. To determine the sensitivity of the DBPs to specific wavelengths of light, drakes were given an acute exposure to red, blue, or white light. Blue light stimulated an increase (P < 0.01) in the immediate early gene fra-2-ir co-expression in melanopsin-ir neurons in the PMM, and red light increased (P < 0.05) fra-2-ir co-expression in opsin-ir neurons, suggesting these neurons are blue- and red-receptive, respectively. To further investigate this photoperiodic response, we exposed drakes to chronic red, long-day white, short-day white, or blue light. Blue light elicited gonadal regression, as testes weight (P < 0.001) and plasma luteinizing hormone (LH) levels (P < 0.001) were lower compared to drakes housed under long-day white light. Photo-regressed drakes experienced complete gonadal recrudescence when housed under long-day red and blue light. qRT-PCR analyses showed that gonadally regressed drakes showed reduced levels (P < 0.01) of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) mRNA but not photoreceptor or GnIH mRNAs compared to gonadally functional drakes. Our data suggest DBP in the LS may be rhodosin and multiple DBPs are required to fully maintain gonadal function in Pekin drakes.

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