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Proc Biol Sci. 1998 May 22;265(1399):869-74.

Switch in rod opsin gene expression in the European eel, Anguilla anguilla (L.).

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, UK.


The rod photoreceptors of the European eel, Anguilla anguilla (L.), alter their wavelength of maximum sensitivity (lambda max) from c.a. 523 nm to c.a. 482 nm at maturation, a switch involving the synthesis of a new visual pigment protein (opsin) that is inserted into the outer segments of existing rods. We artificially induced the switch in rod opsin production by the administration of hormones, and monitored the switch at the level of mRNA accumulation using radiolabelled oligonuleotides that hybridized differently to the two forms of eel rod opsin. The production of the deep-sea form of rod opsin was detected 6 h after the first hormone injection, and the switch in rod opsin expression was complete within four weeks, at which time only the mRNA for the deep-sea opsin was detectable in the retinal cells. It is suggested that this system could be used as a tractable model for studying the regulatory control of opsin gene expression.

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