Age-related decline in rod phototransduction sensitivity in rhesus monkeys fed an n-3 fatty acid-deficient diet

Brett G. Jeffrey, Martha Neuringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an n-3 fatty acid, is the major polyunsaturate in rod outer segments. The effect of long-term n-3 fatty acid deficiency on rod and cone phototransduction was investigated in the rhesus monkey. METHODS. From birth to ≅ 9 years rhesus monkeys were fed an n-3- deficient diet (n = 9) known to reduce retinal DHA by 80%. Monkeys in the control group (n = 12) received either 8% α-linolenic acid (ALA) or 0.6% DHA, both of which support normal retinal DHA levels. None of the diets contained carotenoids. Photoactivation kinetics were assessed from the rate of increase and a P3 model fit of the ERG a-wave. Maximal cone amplitude and sensitivity were measured from the cone a-wave at 4 ms. The rod photoresponse and rod recovery were derived by using a paired flash method. RESULTS. Rod sensitivity was reduced by 40% in the n-3- deficient monkeys at 9 but not 4.5 years. The onset of the rising phase of the photoresponse was significantly delayed (P < 0.004) at 9 years. Rod recovery was delayed by 20% in n-3- deficient monkeys at both ages, but only for bright saturating flashes. Cone phototransduction was not altered by n-3 deficiency. CONCLUSIONS. Long-term dietary n-3 deficiency in the rhesus monkey was associated with two changes in retinal function. First, there was a delay in rod recovery that has remained relatively constant throughout life. Second, there was an agedependent loss in rod phototransduction sensitivity; the lack of dietary carotenoids may have contributed to this decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4360-4367
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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