Degeneration of human photosensitive retinal ganglion cells may explain sleep and circadian rhythms disorders in Parkinson's disease

Isabel Ortuño-Lizarán, Gema Esquiva, Thomas G. Beach, Geidy E. Serrano, Charles Howard Adler, Pedro Lax, Nicolás Cuenca

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Parkinson's disease (PD) patients often suffer from non-motor symptoms like sleep dysregulation, mood disturbances or circadian rhythms dysfunction. The melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells are involved in the control and regulation of these processes and may be affected in PD, as other retinal and visual implications have been described in the disease. Number and morphology of human melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells were evaluated by immunohistochemistry in eyes from donors with PD or control. The Sholl number of intersections, the number of branches, and the number of terminals from the Sholl analysis were significantly reduced in PD melanopsin ganglion cells. Also, the density of these cells significantly decreased in PD compared to controls. Degeneration and impairment of the retinal melanopsin system may affect to sleep and circadian dysfunction reported in PD pathology, and its protection or stimulation may lead to better disease prospect and global quality of life of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number90
JournalActa neuropathologica communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 23 2018



  • Circadian rhythms
  • Human
  • Melanopsin retinal ganglion cell
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Retina
  • Sleep disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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