Analysis of the opsin repertoire in the tardigrade Hypsibius dujardini provides insights into the evolution of opsin genes in panarthropoda

Genome Biol Evol. 2014 Sep 4;6(9):2380-91. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evu193.


Screening of a deeply sequenced transcriptome using Illumina sequencing as well as the genome of the tardigrade Hypsibius dujardini revealed a set of five opsin genes. To clarify the phylogenetic position of these genes and to elucidate the evolutionary history of opsins in Panarthropoda (Onychophora + Tardigrada + Arthropoda), we reconstructed the phylogeny of broadly sampled metazoan opsin genes using maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference methods in conjunction with carefully selected substitution models. According to our findings, the opsin repertoire of H. dujardini comprises representatives of all three major bilaterian opsin clades, including one r-opsin, three c-opsins, and a Group 4 opsin (neuropsin/opsin-5). The identification of the tardigrade ortholog of neuropsin/opsin-5 is the first record of this opsin type in a protostome, but our screening of available metazoan genomes revealed that it is also present in other protostomes. Our opsin phylogeny further suggests that two r-opsins, including an "arthropsin," were present in the last common ancestor of Panarthropoda. Although both r-opsin lineages were retained in Onychophora and Arthropoda, the arthropsin was lost in Tardigrada. The single (most likely visual) r-opsin found in H. dujardini supports the hypothesis of monochromatic vision in the panarthropod ancestor, whereas two duplications of the ancestral panarthropod c-opsin have led to three c-opsins in tardigrades. Although the early-branching nodes are unstable within the metazoans, our findings suggest that the last common ancestor of Bilateria possessed six opsins: Two r-opsins, one c-opsin, and three Group 4 opsins, one of which (Go opsin) was lost in the ecdysozoan lineage.

Keywords: Panarthropoda; Tardigrada; opsin evolution; transcriptomics; vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genome
  • Invertebrates / classification
  • Invertebrates / genetics*
  • Opsins / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Tardigrada / classification
  • Tardigrada / genetics*


  • Opsins