Sequence, Structure, and Expression of Opsins in the Monochromatic Stomatopod Squilla empusa

Juan C Valdez-Lopez, Mary W Donohue, Michael J Bok, Julia Wolf, Thomas W Cronin, Megan L Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
170 Downloads (Pure)


Most stomatopod crustaceans have complex retinas in their compound eyes, with up to 16 spectral types of photoreceptors, but members of the superfamily Squilloidea have much simpler retinas, thought to contain a single photoreceptor spectral class. In the Atlantic stomatopod Squilla empusa, microspectrophotometry shows that all photoreceptors absorb light maximally at 517 nm, indicating that a single visual pigment is present in all photoreceptors in the retina. However, six distinct, but partial, long wavelength sensitive (LWS) opsin transcripts, which encode the protein component of the visual pigment, have been previously isolated through RT-PCR. In order to investigate the spectral and functional differences among S. empusa's opsins, we used RT-PCR to complete the 3' end of sequences for five of the six expressed opsins. The extended sequences spanned from the first transmembrane helix (TM1) to the 3' end of the coding region. Using homology-based modeling, we predicted the three-dimensional structure of the amino acid translation of the S. empusa opsins. Based on these analyses, S. empusa LWS opsins share a high sequence identity in transmembrane regions and in amino acids within 15Å of the chromophore-binding lysine on transmembrane helix 7 (TM7), suggesting that these opsins produce spectrally similar visual pigments in agreement with previous results. However, we propose that these spectrally similar opsins differ functionally, as there are non-conservative amino acid substitutions found in intracellular loop 2 (ICL2) and TM5/ICL3, which are critical regions for G-protein binding, and substitutions in extracellular regions suggest different chromophore attachment affinities. In situ hybridization of two of the opsins (Se5 and Se6) revealed strong co-expression in all photoreceptors in both midband and peripheral regions of the retina as well as in selected ocular and cerebral ganglion neuropils. These data suggest expression of multiple opsins - likely spectrally identical, but functionally different - in multiple types of neuronal cells in S. empusa. This suggests that the multiple opsins characteristic of other stomatopod species may have similar functional specialization.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbericy007
Pages (from-to)386-397
Number of pages12
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number3
Early online date25 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


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