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Vis Neurosci. 2011 Jul;28(4):325-35. doi: 10.1017/S0952523811000010. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

A novel rhodopsin-like gene expressed in zebrafish retina.

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  • 1Department of Cell & Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The visual pigment rhodopsin (rh1) constitutes the first step in the sensory transduction cascade in the rod photoreceptors of the vertebrate eye, forming the basis of vision at low light levels. In most vertebrates, rhodopsin is a single-copy gene whose function in rod photoreceptors is highly conserved. We found evidence for a second rhodopsin-like gene (rh1-2) in the zebrafish genome. This novel gene was not the product of a zebrafish-specific gene duplication event and contains a number of unique amino acid substitutions. Despite these differences, expression of rh1-2 in vitro yielded a protein that not only bound chromophore, producing an absorption spectrum in the visible range (λmax ≈ 500 nm), but also activated in response to light. Unlike rh1, rh1-2 is not expressed during the first 4 days of embryonic development; it is expressed in the retina of adult fish but not the brain or muscle. Similar rh1-2 sequences were found in two other Danio species, as well as a more distantly related cyprinid, Epalzeorhynchos bicolor. While sequences were only identified in cyprinid fish, phylogenetic analyses suggest an older origin for this gene family. Our study suggests that rh1-2 is a functional opsin gene that is expressed in the retina later in development. The discovery of a new previously uncharacterized opsin gene in zebrafish retina is surprising given its status as a model system for studies of vertebrate vision and visual development.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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