Emergence of novel color vision in mice engineered to express a human cone photopigment

Science. 2007 Mar 23;315(5819):1723-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1138838.


Changes in the genes encoding sensory receptor proteins are an essential step in the evolution of new sensory capacities. In primates, trichromatic color vision evolved after changes in X chromosome-linked photopigment genes. To model this process, we studied knock-in mice that expressed a human long-wavelength-sensitive (L) cone photopigment in the form of an X-linked polymorphism. Behavioral tests demonstrated that heterozygous females, whose retinas contained both native mouse pigments and human L pigment, showed enhanced long-wavelength sensitivity and acquired a new capacity for chromatic discrimination. An inherent plasticity in the mammalian visual system thus permits the emergence of a new dimension of sensory experience based solely on gene-driven changes in receptor organization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Color Perception / genetics*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Electroretinography
  • Female
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Primates / genetics
  • Primates / physiology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Pigments / genetics*
  • Retinal Pigments / physiology*
  • X Chromosome / genetics
  • X Chromosome Inactivation


  • Retinal Pigments