Purpose: Salamander retinas are known to contain at least three cone pigments and two rod pigments. The purpose of this study was to clone and characterize the visual pigments from salamander cones.
Methods: cDNA fragments of cone pigments were amplified from a salamander retina cDNA library by PCR using a pair of primers with consensus for visual pigments. These fragments were cloned and used as probes for library-screening. The full-length cDNAs were isolated from the retinal library using the cloned PCR products as probes. DNA sequences were determined by the dideoxynucleotide chain termination method.
Results: Two pigment cDNAs were cloned and sequenced from the salamander library. The global GenBank search showed that they do not match any existing sequences but have significant sequence similarity to visual pigments. One of the pigment cDNAs showed a high sequence homology with red cone pigments from other species and thus, was designated as a red cone opsin. The other pigment was designated as a blue cone opsin as it is most homologous to the chicken and goldfish blue cone pigments. Both cDNAs contain a full-length coding region encoding 365 amino acids in the red and 363 amino acids in the blue cone pigment. Hydropathy analysis predicted that both pigments could form seven hydrophobic transmembrane helices. Both pigments retain the key amino acid residues critical for maintaining the structure and function of opsins and have similar G-protein interaction sequences which differ from that of rod opsin. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that the red opsin belongs to the L group and the blue opsin belongs to the M1 group of visual pigments.
Conclusions: The salamander red and blue cone pigments share high sequence homology with the cone pigments of other species.