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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2012 Mar;62(3):986-1008. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.11.030. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

Opsin gene duplication and divergence in ray-finned fish.

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University of Victoria, Department of Biology, Station CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 3N5.


Opsin gene sequences were first reported in the 1980s. The goal of that research was to test the hypothesis that human opsins were members of a single gene family and that variation in human color vision was mediated by mutations in these genes. While the new data supported both hypotheses, the greatest contribution of this work was, arguably, that it provided the data necessary for PCR-based surveys in a diversity of other species. Such studies, and recent whole genome sequencing projects, have uncovered exceptionally large opsin gene repertoires in ray-finned fishes (taxon, Actinopterygii). Guppies and zebrafish, for example, have 10 visual opsin genes each. Here we review the duplication and divergence events that have generated these gene collections. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that large opsin gene repertories in fish have been generated by gene duplication and divergence events that span the age of the ray-finned fishes. Data from whole genome sequencing projects and from large-insert clones show that tandem duplication is the primary mode of opsin gene family expansion in fishes. In some instances gene conversion between tandem duplicates has obscured evolutionary relationships among genes and generated unique key-site haplotypes. We mapped amino acid substitutions at so-called key-sites onto phylogenies and this exposed many examples of convergence. We found that dN/dS values were higher on the branches of our trees that followed gene duplication than on branches that followed speciation events, suggesting that duplication relaxes constraints on opsin sequence evolution. Though the focus of the review is opsin sequence evolution, we also note that there are few clear connections between opsin gene repertoires and variation in spectral environment, morphological traits, or life history traits.

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