Purpose: Pupillary light reflex (PLR) is driven by outer retinal photoreceptors and by melanopsin-expressing intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells of the inner retina. To isolate the melanopic component, we studied patients with severe vision loss due to Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) caused by gene mutations acting on the outer retina.
Methods: Direct PLR was recorded in LCA patients (n = 21) with known molecular causation and severe vision loss. Standard stimuli (2.5 log scot-cd.m-2; ∼13 log quanta.cm-2.s-1; achromatic full-field) with 0.1- or 5-second duration were used in all patients. Additional recordings were performed with higher luminance (3.9 log scot-cd.m-2) in a subset of patients.
Results: The LCA patients showed no detectable PLR to the standard stimulus with short duration. With longer-duration stimuli, a PLR was detectable in the majority (18/21) of patients. The latency of the PLR was 2.8 ± 1.3 seconds, whereas normal latency was 0.19 ± 0.02 seconds. Peak contraction amplitude in patients was 1.1 ± 0.9 mm at 6.2 ± 2.3 seconds, considerably different from normal amplitude of 4.2 ± 0.4 mm at 3.0 ± 0.4 seconds. Recordings with higher luminance demonstrated that PLRs in severe LCA could also be evoked with short-duration stimuli.
Conclusions: The PLR in severe LCA patients likely represents the activation of the melanopic circuit in isolation from rod and cone input. Knowledge of the properties of the human melanopic PLR allows not only comparison to those in animal models but also serves to define the fidelity of postretinal transmission in clinical trials targeting patients with no outer retinal function.