Background: Melanopsin-containing intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) play an important role in non-image forming responses to light, such as circadian photoentrainment, light-induced melatonin suppression, and pupillary light response. Although it is known that there are some single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the melanopsin (OPN4) gene in humans, the associations of the SNPs with non-image forming responses to light remains unclear. In the present study, we examined the associations of melanopsin gene polymorphisms with pupillary light response. Methods: Japanese university students (mean age: 21.0±1.7 years) with the genotypes of TT (n = 38), TC (n = 28) and CC (n = 7) at rs1079610 (I394T) located in the coding region participated in the present study. They were matched by age and sex ratio. Dark-adapted pupil size (<1 lx) was first measured. Then steady-state pupil size was measured during exposure to five lighting conditions (10 lx, 100 lx, 1000 lx, 3000 lx, 6000 lx in the vertical direction at eye level). Results: Significant interaction between the genotype of I394T (TT versus TC+CC) and luminance levels was found in pupil size. Under high illuminance levels (1000 lx, 3000 lx and 6000 lx), pupil sizes in subjects with the C allele were significantly smaller than those in subjects with the TT genotype. On the other hand, pupil size in subjects with the C allele under low illuminance (<1 lx) was significantly larger than that in subjects with the TT genotype. Percentages of pupil constriction under high illuminance levels were significantly greater in subjects with the C allele than in subjects with the TT genotype. Conclusions: Human melanopsin gene polymorphism I394T interacted with irradiance in association with pupil size. This is the first evidence suggesting a functional connection between melanopsin gene polymorphism and pupillary light response as an index of non-image forming response to light.
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