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Genetics. 1999 Dec;153(4):1839-50.

Genetic analyses of visual pigments of the pigeon (Columba livia).

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Department of Biology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244, USA.


We isolated five classes of retinal opsin genes rh1(Cl), rh2(Cl), sws1(Cl), sws2(Cl), and lws(Cl) from the pigeon; these encode RH1(Cl), RH2(Cl), SWS1(Cl), SWS2(Cl), and LWS(Cl) opsins, respectively. Upon binding to 11-cis-retinal, these opsins regenerate the corresponding photosensitive molecules, visual pigments. The absorbance spectra of visual pigments have a broad bell shape with the peak, being called lambdamax. Previously, the SWS1(Cl) opsin cDNA was isolated from the pigeon retinal RNA, expressed in cultured COS1 cells, reconstituted with 11-cis-retinal, and the lambdamax of the resulting SWS1(Cl) pigment was shown to be 393 nm. In this article, using the same methods, the lambdamax values of RH1(Cl), RH2(Cl), SWS2(Cl), and LWS(Cl) pigments were determined to be 502, 503, 448, and 559 nm, respectively. The pigeon is also known for its UV vision, detecting light at 320-380 nm. Being the only pigments that absorb light below 400 nm, the SWS1(Cl) pigments must mediate its UV vision. We also determined that a nonretinal P(Cl) pigment in the pineal gland of the pigeon has a lambdamax value at 481 nm.

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