Ignacio Provencio

Provencio, Ignacio

Primary Appointment

Professor, Biology


  • BA, Biology, Swarthmore College
  • PhD, Biology, University of Virginia
  • Postdoc, Anatomy & Cell Biology, Uniformed Services University

Contact Information

PO Box 400328
Department of Biology
Telephone: 434-924-4412

Research Disciplines


Research Interests

The Role of Melanopsin Retinal Ganglion Cells in the Photic Regulation of Mammalian Circadian Rhythms

Research Description

Light is critical for many biological processes. While vision is the most obvious of these, much of our "non-visual" physiology is regulated by light. For example, the internal 24-hour (circadian) clock that controls daily rhythms such as our sleep:wake cycle is reset by light. Responses that are controlled by the sympathetic system such as constriction of the eye's pupil, the production of the hormone melatonin, or even heart rate are all regulated by light to some degree. Many of these non-visual responses to light are controlled, at least in part, by a recently discovered class of photoreceptor in the retina.

Melanopsin is the photopigment within these novel photoreceptors that renders them light-sensitive. Our lab is interested in understanding the role that these melanopsin-based photoreceptors play in various non-visual responses to light. In addition, we are trying to elucidate the biochemical details of the signaling cascade that is initiated by melanopsin activation. We hope that these studies will illuminate the broader impact of light on vertebrate physiology.

Selected Publications