Blue-light-receptive cryptochrome is expressed in a sponge eye lacking neurons and opsin

J Exp Biol. 2012 Apr 15;215(Pt 8):1278-86. doi: 10.1242/jeb.067140.


Many larval sponges possess pigment ring eyes that apparently mediate phototactic swimming. Yet sponges are not known to possess nervous systems or opsin genes, so the unknown molecular components of sponge phototaxis must differ fundamentally from those in other animals, inspiring questions about how this sensory system functions. Here we present molecular and biochemical data on cryptochrome, a candidate gene for functional involvement in sponge pigment ring eyes. We report that Amphimedon queenslandica, a demosponge, possesses two cryptochrome/photolyase genes, Aq-Cry1 and Aq-Cry2. The mRNA of one gene (Aq-Cry2) is expressed in situ at the pigment ring eye. Additionally, we report that Aq-Cry2 lacks photolyase activity and contains a flavin-based co-factor that is responsive to wavelengths of light that also mediate larval photic behavior. These results suggest that Aq-Cry2 may act in the aneural, opsin-less phototaxic behavior of a sponge.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism*
  • DNA Repair / radiation effects
  • Eye / innervation*
  • Eye / metabolism*
  • Eye / radiation effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / radiation effects
  • Light*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / radiation effects
  • Opsins / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Porifera / genetics
  • Porifera / growth & development
  • Porifera / metabolism*
  • Proteolysis / radiation effects
  • Spectrum Analysis


  • Cryptochromes
  • Opsins