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Genetics. 2003 Feb;163(2):663-75.

Gene duplication and spectral diversification of cone visual pigments of zebrafish.

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  • 1Department of Integrated Biosciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Chiba 277-8562, Japan.


Zebrafish is becoming a powerful animal model for the study of vision but the genomic organization and variation of its visual opsins have not been fully characterized. We show here that zebrafish has two red (LWS-1 and LWS-2), four green (RH2-1, RH2-2, RH2-3, and RH2-4), and single blue (SWS2) and ultraviolet (SWS1) opsin genes in the genome, among which LWS-2, RH2-2, and RH2-3 are novel. SWS2, LWS-1, and LWS-2 are located in tandem and RH2-1, RH2-2, RH2-3, and RH2-4 form another tandem gene cluster. The peak absorption spectra (lambdamax) of the reconstituted photopigments from the opsin cDNAs differed markedly among them: 558 nm (LWS-1), 548 nm (LWS-2), 467 nm (RH2-1), 476 nm (RH2-2), 488 nm (RH2-3), 505 nm (RH2-4), 355 nm (SWS1), 416 nm (SWS2), and 501 nm (RH1, rod opsin). The quantitative RT-PCR revealed a considerable difference among the opsin genes in the expression level in the retina. The expression of the two red opsin genes and of three green opsin genes, RH2-1, RH2-3, and RH2-4, is significantly lower than that of RH2-2, SWS1, and SWS2. These findings must contribute to our comprehensive understanding of visual capabilities of zebrafish and the evolution of the fish visual system and should become a basis of further studies on expression and developmental regulation of the opsin genes.

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