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J Exp Biol. 2008 Jul;211(Pt 13):2134-43. doi: 10.1242/jeb.009365.

Effects of exogenous thyroid hormones on visual pigment composition in coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch).

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.


The role of exogenous thyroid hormone on visual pigment content of rod and cone photoreceptors was investigated in coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Coho vary the ratio of vitamin A1- and A2-based visual pigments in their eyes. This variability potentially alters spectral sensitivity and thermal stability of the visual pigments. We tested whether the direction of shift in the vitamin A1/A2 ratio, resulting from application of exogenous thyroid hormone, varied in fish of different ages and held under different environmental conditions. Changes in the vitamin A1/A2 visual pigment ratio were estimated by measuring the change in maximum absorbance (lambda max) of rods using microspectrophotometry (MSP). Exogenous thyroid hormone resulted in a long-wavelength shift in rod, middle-wavelength-sensitive (MWS) and long-wavelength-sensitive (LWS) cone photoreceptors. Rod and LWS cone lambda max values increased, consistent with an increase in vitamin A2. MWS cone lambda max values increased more than predicted for a change in the vitamin A1/A2 ratio. To account for this shift, we tested for the expression of multiple RH2 opsin subtypes. We isolated and sequenced a novel RH2 opsin subtype, which had 48 amino acid differences from the previously sequenced coho RH2 opsin. A substitution of glutamate for glutamine at position 122 could partially account for the greater than predicted shift in MWS cone lambda max values. Our findings fit the hypothesis that a variable vitamin A1/A2 ratio provides seasonality in spectral tuning and/or improved thermal stability of visual pigments in the face of seasonal environmental changes, and that multiple RH2 opsin subtypes can provide flexibility in spectral tuning associated with migration-metamorphic events.

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