Visual pigment composition in zebrafish: Evidence for a rhodopsin-porphyropsin interchange system

WT Allison, TJ Haimberger, CW Hawryshyn*, SE Temple

*Corresponding author for this work

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

59 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous reports have concluded that zebrafish (Danio rerio) possesses A(1)-based visual pigments in their rod and cone photoreceptors. In the present study, we investigated the possibility that zebrafish have a paired visual pigment system. We measured the spectral absorption characteristics of photoreceptors from zebrafish maintained in different temperature regimes and those treated with exogenous thyroid hormone using CCD-based microspectrophotometry. Rods from fish housed at 15degreesC and 28degreesC were not significantly different, having lambda(max) values of 503 +/- 5 nm (n = 106) and 504 +/- 6 urn (n = 88), respectively. Thyroid hormone treatment (held at 28degreesC), however, significalltly shifted the lambda(max) of rods from 503 +/- 5 nm (n = 194) to 527 +/- 8 nm (n = 212). Cone photoreceptors in fish housed at 28degreesC (without thyroid hormone treatment) had lambda(max) values of 361 +/- 3 nm (n = 2) for ultraviolet-, 411 +/- 5 nm (n = 18) for short-, 482 +/- 6 nm (n = 9) for medium-, and 565 +/- 10 nm (n = 14) for long-wavelength sensitive cones. Thyroid hormone treatment of fish held at 28degreesC significantly shifted the lambda(max) of long-wavelength sensitive cones to 613 +/- 11nm (n = 20), substantially beyond that of the lambda(max) of the longest possible A(1)-based visual pigment (similar to580 nm). Thyroid hormone treatment produced smaller shifts of lambda(max) in other cone types and increased the half-band width. All shifts in photoreceptor lambda(max) values resulting from thyroid hormone treatment matched predictions for an A(1-) to A(2)-based visual pigment system. We therefore conclude that zebrafish possess a rhodopsin-porphyropsin interchange system that functions to spectrally tune rod and cone photoreceptors. We believe that these observations should be carefully considered during analysis of zebrafish spectral sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-952
Number of pages8
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • retina
  • telcost fish
  • giant danio
  • chromophore
  • thyroxine
  • GENE
  • ROD


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