Multiple cell types often differentiate from a pluripotent cell. These cells may then further diversify as distinct subtypes. The visual system provides an ideal model for studying subtype specification as various photoreceptors acquire different functions based on the type of opsin they express. Opsin expression is mostly controlled through transcriptional mechanisms that are evolutionary conserved from Drosophila to humans. In addition, it appears that, from a "default" developmental state, distinct "acquired" photoreceptor states develop upon receiving intrinsic or extrinsic signals. This review discusses factors involved in opsin gene regulation and how their integration may explain how subtype specificity is achieved.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.