UVA Biology People Provencio

Ignacio Provencio

Professor of Biology, Assoc. Chair of Biology
Gilmer 418
(434) 924-4412
Lab: (434) 924-4258


  • B.A., Swarthmore College, 1987
  • Ph.D., University of Virginia, 1996
  • Postdoctoral Research, Uniformed Services University, 1996 -1999

Research Interests

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 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.

Representative Publications

  • Warthen, D.M., Wiltgen, B.J., and Provencio, I. (2011). Light enhances learned fear. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108, 13788-13793. 10.1073/pnas.1103214108.
  • Warthen, D.M., and Provencio, I. (2012). The role of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in nonimage-forming responses to light. Eye Brain 4, 43-48. 10.2147/EB.S27839.
  • Ayturk, D.G., Castrucci, A.M., Carr, D.E., Keller, S.R., and Provencio, I. (2015). Lack of Melanopsin Is Associated with Extreme Weight Loss in Mice upon Dietary Challenge. PLoS One 10, e0127031. 10.1371/journal.pone.0127031.
  • Ksendzovsky, A., Pomeraniec, I.J., Zaghloul, K.A., Provencio, J.J., and Provencio, I. (2017). Clinical implications of the melanopsin-based non-image-forming visual system. Neurology 88, 1282-1290. 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003761.
  • Gao, J., Griner, E.M., Liu, M., Moy, J., Provencio, I., and Liu, X. (2022). Differential effects of experimental glaucoma on intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in mice. J Comp Neurol 530, 1494-1506. 10.1002/cne.25293.
  • Gao, J., Provencio, I., and Liu, X. (2022). Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in glaucoma. Front Cell Neurosci 16, 992747. 10.3389/fncel.2022.992747.