Photoreceptors’ efficient system on managing chronic stress


Denver, Colo.—To keep one’s sight, it is essential that photoreceptors, the specialized light-sensitive cells in the retina, keep functioning and stay healthy. This can be difficult due to the stressful environment that the photoreceptors inhabit. However, photoreceptors may be adaptable to this environment better than other neurons due to sustaining healthy pools of mitochondria. One study presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Denver, Colo., examined how cone mitochondria react to stress and explained how photoreceptors are able to remain healthy.

To evaluate the impact of certain stressors on cone mitochondria, Kaitlyn Rutter, BS, PhD Candidate together with postdoctoral fellow Rachel Hutto at the University of Washington School of Medicine, exposed zebrafish to cone-specific and systemic stressors, such as exposing the larvae to cold stress (16°C). To evaluate cone mitochondria localization, they used a “triple transgenic fish expressing a cone mitochondrial marker, a Müller glia marker and a cone cytosol marker”. To evaluate the selective degradation of mitochondria, they “used larvae co-expressing the BFP mitochondria marker and an autophagosome marker fluorescently tagged under the Müller glia promoter.”

Rutter and Hutto noticed that cone mitochondria were hardly seen outside the cone ellipsoid region, but that was increased after exposure to any of the stressors. Furthermore, 23.6% ± 1.6% (n = 44 zebrafish) of cone mitochondria that left the ellipsoid after being exposed to the cold got taken up by Müller glia cells. Some of cone mitochondria in Müller glia underwent degradation.

“Our research highlights a photoreceptor stress adaptation where damaged mitochondria are segregated from the healthy network, targeted for degradation, and exported into Müller glia cells.” Rutter said about their findings.

  • Abstract title: Photoreceptor mitochondria can be transferred and turned over by Müller glia
  • Presentation start/end time: Tuesday, May 3, 10:30am – 12:30pm MT
  • Location: Poster Hall (Denver Convention Center)
  • Also available on the virtual meeting site at beginning May 1
  • Abstract Number: F0462


The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include approximately 10,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. ARVO advances research worldwide into understanding the visual system and preventing, treating and curing its disorders. Learn more at

All abstracts accepted for presentation at the 2022 ARVO Annual Meeting represent previously unpublished data and conclusions. This research may be proprietary or may have been submitted for journal publication. Embargo policy: Journalists must seek approval from the presenter(s) before reporting data from paper or poster presentations. Press releases or stories on information presented at the ARVO Annual Meeting may not be released or published until the following embargo dates:

  • May 1: Official launch of presentations of all posters (both presented in-person and virtually)
  • Rolling basis: Paper session, Symposia, Minisymposia, Cross-sectional Groups, and invited speaker sessions that have specific presentation times will be embargoed until the end of those individual time slots.

Media contact:
Jenniffer Scherhaufer