Genetic secret of night vision

Compact DNA organization improves vision in nocturnal mammals.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of the vertebrate eye is its retina. Surprisingly, the sensitive portions of the photoreceptor cells are found on the hind side of the retina, meaning that light needs to travel through living neural tissue before it can be detected. While the origin of the high optical quality of the retina remain largely uninvestigated, it has long been proposed that a peculiar DNA organization would serve to improve vision in nocturnal mammals. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden now showed that the optical quality of the mouse retina increases in the first month after birth that imparts improved visual sensitivity under low light conditions. This improvement is caused by a compact organization of the genetic material in the cell nucleus of rod photoreceptor cells that responsible for dim light vision. The study is published in eLife.

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