Recruitment of Rod Photoreceptors from Short-Wavelength-Sensitive Cones during the Evolution of Nocturnal Vision in Mammals.

Academic Article


  • Vertebrate ancestors had only cone-like photoreceptors. The duplex retina evolved in jawless vertebrates with the advent of highly photosensitive rod-like photoreceptors. Despite cones being the arbiters of high-resolution color vision, rods emerged as the dominant photoreceptor in mammals during a nocturnal phase early in their evolution. We investigated the evolutionary and developmental origins of rods in two divergent vertebrate retinas. In mice, we discovered genetic and epigenetic vestiges of short-wavelength cones in developing rods, and cell-lineage tracing validated the genesis of rods from S cones. Curiously, rods did not derive from S cones in zebrafish. Our study illuminates several questions regarding the evolution of duplex retina and supports the hypothesis that, in mammals, the S-cone lineage was recruited via the Maf-family transcription factor NRL to augment rod photoreceptors. We propose that this developmental mechanism allowed the adaptive exploitation of scotopic niches during the nocturnal bottleneck early in mammalian evolution.
  • Authors

  • Kim, Jung-Woong
  • Yang, Hyun-Jin
  • Oel, Adam Phillip
  • Brooks, Matthew John
  • Jia, Li
  • Plachetzki, David
  • Li, Wei
  • Allison, William Ted
  • Swaroop, Anand
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • June 20, 2016
  • Published In

  • Developmental Cell  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Animals
  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Lineage
  • Chickens
  • Chromatin
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Eye Proteins
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Light
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Night Vision
  • Opsins
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Zebrafish
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 520
  • End Page

  • 532
  • Volume

  • 37
  • Issue

  • 6