Influence of cone pigment coexpression on spectral sensitivity and color vision in the mouse

Vision Res. 2004;44(14):1615-22. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2004.01.016.


The mouse retina contains both middle-wavelength-sensitive (M) and ultraviolet-sensitive (UV) photopigments that are coexpressed in cones. To examine some potential visual consequences of cone pigment coexpression, spectral sensitivity functions were measured in mice (Mus musculus) using both the flicker electroretinogram (ERG) and behavioral discrimination tests. Discrimination tests were also employed to search for the presence of color vision in the mouse. Spectral sensitivity functions for the mouse obtained from ERG measurements and from psychophysical tests each reveal contributions from two classes of cone having peak sensitivities (lambda(max)) of approximately 360 and 509-512 nm. The relative contributions of the two pigment types to spectral sensitivity differ significantly in the two types of measurements with a relationship reversed from that often seen in mammals. Mice were capable of discriminating between some pairs of spectral stimuli under test conditions where luminance-related cues were irrelevant. Since mice can make dichromatic color discriminations, their visual systems must be able to exploit differences in the spectral absorption properties among the cones. Complete selective segregation of opsins into individual photoreceptors is apparently not a prerequisite for color vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Electroretinography / methods
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Pigments / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Retinal Pigments