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. 2016 Aug;59(8):541-9.
doi: 10.1139/gen-2015-0164. Epub 2016 May 25.

Opsin Gene Repertoires in Northern Archaic Hominids


Opsin Gene Repertoires in Northern Archaic Hominids

John S Taylor et al. Genome. .


The Neanderthals' northern distribution, hunting techniques, and orbit breadths suggest that they were more active in dim light than modern humans. We surveyed visual opsin genes from four Neanderthals and two other archaic hominids to see if they provided additional support for this hypothesis. This analysis was motivated by the observation that alleles responsible for anomalous trichromacy in humans are more common in northern latitudes, by data suggesting that these variants might enhance vision in mesopic conditions, and by the observation that dim light active species often have fewer opsin genes than diurnal relatives. We also looked for evidence of convergent amino acid substitutions in Neanderthal opsins and orthologs from crepuscular or nocturnal species. The Altai Neanderthal, the Denisovan, and the Ust'-Ishim early modern human had opsin genes that encoded proteins identical to orthologs in the human reference genome. Opsins from the Vindija Cave Neanderthals (three females) had many nonsynonymous substitutions, including several predicted to influence colour vision (e.g., stop codons). However, the functional implications of these observations were difficult to assess, given that "control" loci, where no substitutions were expected, differed from humans to the same extent. This left unresolved the test for colour vision deficiencies in Vindija Cave Neanderthals.

Keywords: Neanderthal; genome; génome; mésopique; néandertalien; opsin; opsine; twilight; vision.

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