Coexpression of spectrally distinct rhodopsins in Aedes aegypti r7 photoreceptors

Xiaobang Hu, Michelle A. Whaley, Michelle M. Stein, Bronwen E. Mitchell, Joseph E. O'Tousa

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23 Scopus citations


The retina of the mosquito Aedes aegypti can be divided into four regions based on the non-overlapping expression of a UV sensitive Aaop8 rhodopsin and a long wavelength sensitive Aaop2 type rhodopsin in the R7 photoreceptors. We show here that another rhodopsin, Aaop9, is expressed in all R7 photoreceptors and a subset of R8 photoreceptors. In the dorsal region, Aaop9 is expressed in both the cell body and rhabdomere of R7 and R8 cells. In other retinal regions Aaop9 is expressed only in R7 cells, being localized to the R7 rhabdomere in the central and ventral regions and in both the cell body and rhabdomere within the ventral stripe. Within the dorsal-central transition area ommatidia do not show a strict pairing of R7-R8 cell types. Thus, Aaop9 is coexpressed in the two classes of R7 photoreceptors previously distinguished by the non-overlapping expression of Aaop8 and Aaop2 rhodopsins. Electroretinogram analysis of transgenic Drosophila shows that Aaop9 is a short wavelength rhodopsin with an optimal response to 400-450 nm light. The coexpressed Aaop2 rhodopsin has dual wavelength sensitivity of 500-550 nm and near 350 nm in the UV region. As predicted by the spectral properties of each rhodopsin, Drosophila photoreceptors expressing both Aaop9 and Aaop2 rhodopsins exhibit a uniform sensitivity across the broad 350-550 nm light range. We propose that rhodopsin coexpression is an adaptation within the R7 cells to improve visual function in the low-light environments in which Ae. aegypti is active.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23121
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General

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