Parallel Opsin Switches in Multiple Cone Types of the Starry Flounder Retina: Tuning Visual Pigment Composition for a Demersal Life Style

Peer reviewed: 
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Savelli, I., Novales Flamarique, I., Iwanicki, T. et al. Parallel opsin switches in multiple cone types of the starry flounder retina: tuning visual pigment composition for a demersal life style. Sci Rep 8, 4763 (2018) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-23008-y.

Date created: 
Behavioural ecology
Systems analysis

Variable expression of visual pigment proteins (opsins) in cone photoreceptors of the vertebrate retina is a primary determinant of vision plasticity. Switches in opsin expression or variable co-expression of opsins within differentiated cones have been documented for a few rodents and fishes, but the extent of photoreceptor types affected and potential functional significance are largely unknown. Here, we show that both single and double cones in the retina of a flatfish, the starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus), undergo visual pigment changes through opsin switches or variable opsin co-expression. As the post-metamorphic juvenile (i.e., the young asymmetric flatfish with both eyes on one side of the body) grows from ~5 g to ~196 g, some single cones and one member of unequal double cones switched from a visual pigment with maximum wavelength of absorbance, λmax, at shorter wavelengths (437 nm and 527 nm) to one with longer λmax (456 nm and 545 nm, respectively) whereas other cones had intermediate visual pigments (λmax at 445 nm or 536 nm) suggesting co-expression of two opsins. The shift toward longer wavelength absorbing visual pigments was in line with maximizing sensitivity to the restricted light spectrum at greater depths and achromatic detection of overhead targets.

Document type: 
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)