Light Might Directly Affect Retinal Ganglion Cell Mitochondria to Potentially Influence Function


  • This invited paper is part of the Symposium-in-Print “Retinal Photodamage.”

Corresponding author email: (Neville N. Osborne)


Visible light (360–760 nm) entering the eye impinges on the many ganglion cell mitochondria in the non-myelinated part of their axons. The same light also disrupts isolated mitochondrial function in vitro and kills cells in culture with the blue light component being particularly lethal whereas red light has little effect. Significantly, a defined light insult only affects the survival of fibroblasts in vitro that contain functional mitochondria supporting the view that mitochondrial photosensitizers are influenced by light. Moreover, a blue light insult to cells in culture causes a change in mitochondrial structure and membrane potential and results in a release of cytochrome c. Blue light also causes an alteration in mitochondria located components of the OXPHOS (oxidative phosphorylation system). Complexes III and IV as well as complex V are significantly upregulated whereas complexes I and II are slightly but significantly up- and downregulated, respectively. Also, blue light causes Dexras1 and reactive oxygen species to be upregulated and for mitochondrial located apoptosis-inducing factor to be activated. A blue light detrimental insult to cells in culture does not involve the activation of caspases but is known to be attenuated by necrostatin-1, typical of a death mechanism named necroptosis.