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Nature. 2004 Mar 18;428(6980):279.

Opsin expression: new mechanism for modulating colour vision.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada.


Each cone photoreceptor in the retina responds to light in a limited range of wavelengths, giving it a spectral phenotype. This phenotype is determined by the most prevalent of the photoreceptor's visual-pigment proteins (opsins) and is assumed to remain unchanged during an animal's lifetime. Here we show that in the Pacific pink salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, single cones can switch their spectral phenotype from ultraviolet to blue by regulating the production of the appropriate opsins as the fish grow older. This photoreceptor plasticity may operate to modulate colour vision as the salmon's lifestyle changes.

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