Royal Society Publishing

The Molecular Basis for the Green-Blue Sensitivity Shift in the Rod Visual Pigments of the European Eel

Simon Archer, Andrew Hope, Julian C. Partridge


When the European eel matures sexually and migrates back to deep sea breeding grounds the visual pigments in its rod photoreceptors change from being maximally sensitive to green light to being maximally sensitive to blue light. In part, this change in sensitivity is due to a change in the opsin component of the visual pigment molecule. We used hormone injection to induce these developmental changes in a group of eels and from these animals an opsin coding region was cloned and sequenced using cDNA made from retinal mRNA. From the retinae of hormone-injected eels and those not injected with hormones, distinct opsin mRNAs were isolated. These mRNAs encode two rod opsin proteins that are very similar but have significant amino acid substitutions in key positions that are likely to be involved in spectral tuning of the eel green and blue sensitive rod visual pigment molecules.