Spectral tuning of a circadian photopigment in a subterranean 'blind' mammal (Spalax ehrenbergi).
David-Gray ZK., Cooper HM., Janssen JW., Nevo E., Foster RG.
The atrophied subcutaneous eyes of Spalax ehrenbergi (the blind mole rat) express a long wavelength sensitive (LWS) cone opsin. Our data provide strong evidence that this photopigment is spectrally tuned to enhance photon capture in the red light environment of the eye. Furthermore, novel mechanisms appear partially responsible for this sensory fine-tuning. These data support the hypothesis that the LWS opsin of Spalax acts as a functional photopigment and that it is not a 'residue' of the pre-subterranean visual system. As the eye of Spalax has only one known function, the entrainment of circadian rhythms to environmental light, the LWS photopigment is implicated in this task. These results, together with our recent findings that rod and cone photopigments are not required for murine photoentrainment, suggest that multiple photopigments (classical and novel) mediate the effects of light on the mammalian circadian system.