A recent study showed that the rod photoreceptor cell nuclei in the retina of nocturnal and diurnal mammals differ considerably in architecture: the location of euchromatin and heterochromatin in the nucleus is interchanged. This inversion has significant implications for the refractive index distribution and the light scattering properties of the nucleus. Here, we extend previous two-dimensional analysis to three dimensions (3D) by using both a numerical finite-difference time-domain and an analytic Mie theory approach. We find that the specific arrangement of the chromatin phases in the nuclear core-shell models employed have little impact on the far-field scattering cross section. However, scattering in the near field, which is the relevant regime inside the retina, shows a significant difference between the two architectures. The “inverted” photoreceptor cell nuclei of nocturnal mammals act as collection lenses, with the lensing effect being much more pronounced in 3D than in two dimensions. This lensing helps to deliver light efficiently to the light-sensing outer segments of the rod photoreceptor cells and thereby improve night vision.
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