PLoS Biology (Jan 2021)

TMT-Opsins differentially modulate medaka brain function in a context-dependent manner.

  • Bruno M Fontinha,
  • Theresa Zekoll,
  • Mariam Al-Rawi,
  • Miguel Gallach,
  • Florian Reithofer,
  • Alison J Barker,
  • Maximilian Hofbauer,
  • Ruth M Fischer,
  • Arndt von Haeseler,
  • Herwig Baier,
  • Kristin Tessmar-Raible

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 19, no. 1
p. e3001012


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Vertebrate behavior is strongly influenced by light. Light receptors, encoded by functional opsin proteins, are present inside the vertebrate brain and peripheral tissues. This expression feature is present from fishes to human and appears to be particularly prominent in diurnal vertebrates. Despite their conserved widespread occurrence, the nonvisual functions of opsins are still largely enigmatic. This is even more apparent when considering the high number of opsins. Teleosts possess around 40 opsin genes, present from young developmental stages to adulthood. Many of these opsins have been shown to function as light receptors. This raises the question of whether this large number might mainly reflect functional redundancy or rather maximally enables teleosts to optimally use the complex light information present under water. We focus on tmt-opsin1b and tmt-opsin2, c-opsins with ancestral-type sequence features, conserved across several vertebrate phyla, expressed with partly similar expression in non-rod, non-cone, non-retinal-ganglion-cell brain tissues and with a similar spectral sensitivity. The characterization of the single mutants revealed age- and light-dependent behavioral changes, as well as an impact on the levels of the preprohormone sst1b and the voltage-gated sodium channel subunit scn12aa. The amount of daytime rest is affected independently of the eyes, pineal organ, and circadian clock in tmt-opsin1b mutants. We further focused on daytime behavior and the molecular changes in tmt-opsin1b/2 double mutants, and found that-despite their similar expression and spectral features-these opsins interact in part nonadditively. Specifically, double mutants complement molecular and behavioral phenotypes observed in single mutants in a partly age-dependent fashion. Our work provides a starting point to disentangle the highly complex interactions of vertebrate nonvisual opsins, suggesting that tmt-opsin-expressing cells together with other visual and nonvisual opsins provide detailed light information to the organism for behavioral fine-tuning. This work also provides a stepping stone to unravel how vertebrate species with conserved opsins, but living in different ecological niches, respond to similar light cues and how human-generated artificial light might impact on behavioral processes in natural environments.