Expression dynamics and protein localization of rhabdomeric opsins in Platynereis larvae

Integr Comp Biol. 2013 Jul;53(1):7-16. doi: 10.1093/icb/ict046. Epub 2013 May 10.


The larval stages of polychaete annelids are often responsive to light and can possess one to six eyes. The early trochophore larvae of the errant annelid Platynereis dumerilii have a single pair of ventral eyespots, whereas older nectochaete larvae have an additional two pairs of dorsal eyes that will develop into the adult eyes. Early Platynereis trochophores show robust positive phototaxis starting on the first day of development. Even though the mechanism of phototaxis in Platynereis early trochophore larvae is well understood, no photopigment (opsin) expression has yet been described in this stage. In late trochophore larvae, a rhabdomeric-type opsin, r-opsin1, expressed in both the eyespots and the adult eyes has already been reported. Here, we identify another Platynereis rhabdomeric opsin, r-opsin3, that is expressed in a single photoreceptor in the eyespots in early trochophores, suggesting that it mediates early larval phototaxis. We also show that r-opsin1 and r-opsin3 are expressed in adjacent photoreceptor cells in the eyespots in later stages, indicating that a second eyespot-photoreceptor differentiates in late trochophore larvae. Using serial transmission electron microscopy (TEM), we identified and reconstructed both photoreceptors and a pigment cell in the late larval eyespot. We also characterized opsin expression in the adult eyes and found that the two opsins co-express there in several photoreceptor cells. Using antibodies recognizing r-opsin1 and r-opsin3 proteins, we demonstrate that both opsins localize to the rhabdomere in all six eyes. In addition, we found that r-opsin1 mRNA is localized to, and translated in, the projections of the adult eyes. The specific changes we describe in opsin transcription and translation and in the cellular complement suggest that the six larval eyes undergo spectral and functional maturation during the early planktonic phase of the Platynereis life cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Computational Biology
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Opsins / genetics
  • Opsins / metabolism*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / metabolism*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / ultrastructure
  • Phylogeny
  • Polychaeta / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Opsins