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Nat Neurosci. 1999 Oct;2(10):884-8.

Trichromatic color vision with only two spectrally distinct photopigments.

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Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy and Department of Ophthalmology, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226-4812, USA.


Protanomaly is a common, X-linked abnormality of color vision. Like people with normal color vision, protanomalous observers are trichromatic, but their ability to discriminate colors in the red-green part of the spectrum is reduced because the photopigments that mediate discrimination in this range are abnormally similar. Whereas normal subjects have pigments whose wavelengths of peak sensitivity differ by about 30 nm, the peak wavelengths for protanomalous observers are thought to differ by only a few nanometers. We found, however, that although this difference occurred in some protanomalous subjects, others had pigments whose peak wavelengths were identical. Genetic and psychophysical results from the latter class indicated that limited red-green discrimination can be achieved with pigments that have the same peak wavelength sensitivity and that differ only in optical density. A single amino acid substitution was correlated with trichromacy in these subjects, suggesting that differences in pigment sequence may regulate the optical density of the cone.

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