Opsin expression: new mechanism for modulating colour vision

Nature. 2004 Mar 18;428(6980):279. doi: 10.1038/428279a.


Each cone photoreceptor in the retina responds to light in a limited range of wavelengths, giving it a spectral phenotype. This phenotype is determined by the most prevalent of the photoreceptor's visual-pigment proteins (opsins) and is assumed to remain unchanged during an animal's lifetime. Here we show that in the Pacific pink salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, single cones can switch their spectral phenotype from ultraviolet to blue by regulating the production of the appropriate opsins as the fish grow older. This photoreceptor plasticity may operate to modulate colour vision as the salmon's lifestyle changes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Color Perception / radiation effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental* / radiation effects
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Light
  • Oncorhynchus / genetics
  • Oncorhynchus / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / radiation effects
  • Rod Opsins / genetics*
  • Rod Opsins / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Rod Opsins