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Curr Biol. 2008 Jan 8;18(1):51-5. Epub 2007 Dec 20.

Evolution and functional diversity of jellyfish opsins.

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Department of Cell Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 70, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.


Cnidaria are the most basal animal phylum possessing complex eyes [1]. Their eyes predominantly use ciliary photoreceptor cells (c-PRCs) like vertebrates, whereas insect eyes use rhabdomeric photoreceptor cells (r-PRCs) [1-4]. These two cell types show not only different cytoarchitectures but distinct phototransduction cascades, which are triggered by the respective types of opsins (e.g., [5]), ciliary opsins (c-opsins) and rhabdomeric opsins (r-opsins) [6]. Recent reports suggested that the c- and r-PRCs and their respective opsins diverged at least before the deuterostome-protostome split [7-9]. To study the earlier evolution of animal PRCs and opsins, we investigated two hydrozoan jellyfishes. We report here the first-characterized cnidarian opsins. Molecular phylogeny revealed that the cloned 20 jellyfish opsins, together with all the opsins from a hydra and some from a sea anemone, are more closely related to the c-opsins than to any other major opsin subfamily, indicating that the divergence of c- and r-opsins antedates the Cnidaria-Bilateria split. Possible scenarios of animal PRC evolution are discussed. Furthermore, Cladonema opsins show several distinct tissue- and stage-specific expression patterns. The expression of specific opsins in the eyes suggests a role in vision, whereas that in the gonads suggests a role in light-controlled release of gametes.

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