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J Neurobiol. 1992 Aug;23(6):605-26.

Degeneration of photoreceptors in rhodopsin mutants of Drosophila.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.


Five different, well-characterized mutants of the R1-6 rhodopsin gene (ninaE), which corresponds to the rod opsin gene of vertebrates, have been examined morphologically as a function of age (up to 9 weeks) to determine whether or not the photoreceptors degenerate and to assess the pattern of degeneration. Structural deterioration of R1-6 photoreceptors with age has been found in all five mutants. The structural pattern of degeneration is similar in the five mutants, but the time course of degeneration is allele dependent and varies greatly among the five, with the strongest alleles causing the fastest degeneration. The degeneration appears to be independent of either the illumination cycle to which the animals are exposed or the presence of screening pigments in the eye. Although the degeneration first appears in R1-6 photoreceptors, eventually R7/8 photoreceptors, which correspond to cones of vertebrates, are also affected. In many of these mutants, striking proliferations of membrane processes have been observed in the subrhabdomeric region of R1-6 photoreceptors. It is hypothesized that (1) this accumulation of membranes may be caused by the failure of newly synthesized membranes that are inserted into the base of microvilli to be assembled into R1-6 rhabdomeres and (2) this failure may be caused by the extremely low concentration of normal R1-6 rhodopsin in the ninaE mutants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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