Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Deep brain photoreceptors and a seasonal signal transduction cascade in birds


Our current understanding of the mechanism underlying seasonal reproduction in birds is reviewed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Benoit J (1935) Rôle des yeux dans l'action stimulante de la lumière sur le développement testiculaire chez le Canard (avec démonstrations). CR Soc Biol (Paris) 118:669–671

  2. Bockmann J, Bockers TM, Winter C, Wittkowski W, Winterhoff H, Deufel T, Kreutz MR (1997) Thyrotropin expression in hypophyseal pars tuberalis-specific cells is 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine, thyrotropin-releasing hormone, and Pit-1 independent. Endocrinology 138:1019–1028

  3. Chaurasia SS, Rollag MD, Jiang G, Hayes WP, Haque R, Natesan A, Zatz M, Tosini G, Liu C, Korf HW, Iuvone PM, Provencio I (2005) Molecular cloning, localization and circadian expression of chicken melanopsin (Opn4): differential regulation of expression in pineal and retinal cell types. J Neurochem 92:158–170

  4. Follett BK, King VM, Meddle SL (1998) Rhythms and photoperiodism in birds. In: Lumsden PJ, Miller AJ (eds) Biological rhythms and photoperiodism in plants. BIOS Scientific, Oxford, pp 231–242

  5. Foster RG, Follett BK (1985) The involvement of a rhodopsin-like photopigment in the photoperiodic response of the Japanese quail. J Comp Physiol [A] 157:519–528

  6. Fu Y, Liao HW, Do MT, Yau KW (2005) Non-image-forming ocular photoreception in vertebrates. Curr Opin Neurobiol 15:415–422

  7. Halford S, Pires SS, Turton M, Zheng L, Gonzalez-Menendez I, Davies WL, Peirson SN, Garcia-Fernandez JM, Hankins MW, Foster RG (2009) VA opsin-based photoreceptors in the hypothalamus of birds. Curr Biol 19:1396–1402

  8. Homma K, Ohta M, Sakakibara Y (1979) Photoinducible phase of the Japanese quail detected by direct stimulation of the brain. In: Suda M, Hayaishi O, Nakagawa H (eds) Biological rhythms and their central mechanism. Elsevier/North-Holland Biomedical, Amsterdam, pp 85–94

  9. Kang SW, Leclerc B, Kosonsiriluk S, Mauro LJ, Iwasawa A, El Halawani ME (2010) Melanopsin expression in dopamine-melatonin neurons of the premammillary nucleus of the hypothalamus and seasonal reproduction in birds. Neuorscience 170:200–213

  10. Nakane Y, Ikegami K, Ono H, Yamamoto N, Yoshida S, Hirunagi K, Ebihara S, Kubo Y, Yoshimura T (2010) A mammalian neural tissue opsin (Opsin 5) is a deep brain photoreceptor in birds. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:15264–15268

  11. Nakao N, Ono H, Yoshimura T (2008a) Thyroid hormones and seasonal reproductive neuroendocrine interactions. Reproduction 136:1–8

  12. Nakao N, Ono H, Yamamura T, Anraku T, Takagi T, Higashi K, Yasuo S, Katou Y, Kageyama S, Uno Y, Kasukawa T, Iigo M, Sharp P, Iwasawa A, Suzuki Y, Sugano S, Niimi T, Mizutani M, Namikawa T, Ebihara S, Ueda H, Yoshimura T (2008b) Thyrotrophin in the pars tuberalis triggers photoperiodic response. Nature 452:317–311

  13. Ono H, Hoshino Y, Yasuo S, Watanabe M, Nakane Y, Murai A, Ebihara S, Korf H, Yoshimura T (2008) Involvement of thyrotropin in photoperiodic signal transduction in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:18238–18242

  14. Rathinam T, Kuenzel WJ (2005) Attenuation of gonadal response to photostimulation following ablation of neurons in the lateral septal organ of chicks. Brain Res Bull 64:455–461

  15. Sharp PJ, Follett BK (1969) Effect of hypothalamic lesions on gonadotrophin release in Japanese quail Coturnix coturnix japonica. Neuroendocrinology 5:205–218

  16. Silver R, Witkovsky P, Horvath P, Alones V, Barnstable CJ, Lehman MN (1988) Coexpression of opsin- and VIP-like-immunoreactivity in CSF-contacting neurons of the avian brain. Cell Tissue Res 253:189–198

  17. Siopes TD, Wilson WO (1974) Extraocular modification of photoreception in intact and pinealectomized Coturnix. Poult Sci 53:2035–2041

  18. Tarttelin E, Bellingham J, Hankins M, Foster R, Lucas R (2003) Neuropsin (Opn5): a novel opsin identified in mammalian neural tissue. FEBS Lett 554:410–416

  19. Vigh B, Vigh-Teichmann I (1998) Actual problems of the cerebrospinal fluid-contacting neurons. Microsc Res Tech 41:57–83

  20. von Frisch K (1911) Beiträge zur Physiologie der Pigmentzellen in der Fischhaut. Pflüger’s Arch Gesamte Physiol Menschen Tiere 138:319–387

  21. Wada Y, Okano T, Adachi A, Ebihara S, Fukada Y (1998) Identification of rhodopsin in the pigeon brain. FEBS Lett 424:53–56

  22. Yamamura T, Hirunagi K, Ebihara S, Yoshimura T (2004) Seasonal morphological changes in the neuro-glial interaction between gonadotropin-releasing hormone nerve terminals and glial endfeet in Japanese quail. Endocrinology 145:4264–4267

  23. Yoshimura T, Yasuo S, Watanabe M, Iigo M, Yamamura T, Hirunagi K, Ebihara S (2003) Light-induced hormone conversion of T4 to T3 regulates photoperiodic response of gonads in birds. Nature 426:178–181

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Takashi Yoshimura.

Additional information

This work was supported in part by Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (S) 19678002, Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas, “Regulatory Mechanism of Gamete Stem Cells” 21116504, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Research Fellows, the Global COE program “Advanced Systems-Biology” from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Science, the Mitsubishi Foundation, and the Toyoaki Scholarship Foundation.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nakane, Y., Yoshimura, T. Deep brain photoreceptors and a seasonal signal transduction cascade in birds. Cell Tissue Res 342, 341–344 (2010).

Download citation


  • Circadian rhythm
  • Photoperiodism
  • Opsin
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone
  • Japanese quail