Chemical synapses equipped with ribbons are tonically active, high-output synapses. The ribbons may play a role in the trafficking of synaptic vesicles. Recent findings in retinal rod cells of BALB/c mice indicate that ribbons are large and smooth in the dark phase, and, due to the formation and release of protrusions, small during the light phase. As a consequence of these changes, ribbons may traffick fewer vesicles in the light than in the dark phases. The aim of the present study was to find out whether the above ribbon changes in this mouse strain are strictly illumination-dependent and which signalling processes may be involved. Here, we show that ribbons form protrusions and release them into the cytoplasm within 30–60 min after lights on, the reverse occurring within 30 min after lights off. Under constant light or constant dark, no circadian rhythm of synaptic ribbon changes is observed. The illumination-dependence of ribbon structure is supported by in vitro experiments showing that in dark-adapted retinas, light induces the same morphological changes as in vivo. In vitro, the effect of light on the ribbons can be counteracted by cyclic guanosine monophosphate and melatonin. In dark-adapted retinas, light effects can be produced by decreasing the calcium ion concentrations in the incubation media. These results suggest that in retinal rod cells, the well known phototransduction signalling mechanisms may be responsible for the ribbon changes presently and previously reported.