Direct reception of light by chromatophores of lower vertebrates

Pigment Cell Res. 2001 Oct;14(5):312-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0749.2001.140502.x.


Rapid color changes of lower vertebrates are caused by the motile activities of pigment cells (chromatophores) present in the skin tissue. Chromatophore motility is generally regulated by neural and/or by endocrine systems. However, in some cases, light also induces pigment aggregation or dispersion directly, which suggests the existence of visual pigments in chromatophores. In fact, some opsins, including melanopsin, have been identified. This article reviews light-sensitive chromatophores of lower vertebrates. Photoreceptive molecules (visual pigments) and signal transduction of light via a GTP-binding protein (G protein) are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatophores / physiology*
  • Light*
  • Retinal Pigments / genetics
  • Retinal Pigments / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology


  • Retinal Pigments