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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Jun 2;382(2):272-84.

Spatiotemporal coordination of rod and cone photoreceptor differentiation in goldfish retina.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.


In this study, we have compared spatial and temporal aspects of development of new rods and cones in the adult goldfish by using a combination of bromodeoxyuridine immunocytochemistry and opsin in situ hybridization to determine the intervals between terminal mitosis (cell "birth") and expression of opsin mRNA for each photoreceptor cell type. The goldfish opsins include rod opsin and four different cone opsins: red, green, blue, and ultraviolet. In a cohort of photoreceptors born at the same time, rods expressed opsin mRNA within 3 days of cell birth, while expression of cone opsin mRNA required at least 7 days. This temporal discrepancy in differentiation, coupled with a discordance in the site of cell genesis of rods and cones, allowed opsin expression to commence in both cell types in approximately the same retinal location. Commitment to the generic cone phenotype occurred within approximately 6 days throughout the cone cohort, as indicated by expression of interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP) mRNA, but expression of a specific spectral phenotype was delayed until rods differentiated nearby. Onset of expression of cone opsin mRNA followed a phenotype-specific sequence: red, then green, then blue, and finally ultraviolet; in situ hybridization with two opsin probes confirmed that individual photoreceptors expressed only one type of opsin as they differentiated. This stepwise process of cone differentiation is consistent with the hypothesis that cell-cell interactions among developing photoreceptors may coordinate selection of specific photoreceptor phenotypes.

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