Rod and Cone Opsin Families Differ in Spectral Tuning Domains but Not Signal Transducing Domains as Judged by Saturated Evolutionary Trace Analysis
The cottoid fishes of Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia provide a unique opportunity to study the evolution of visual pigments in a group of closely related species exposed to different photic environments. Members of this species flock are adapted to different depth habitats down to >1000 m, and both the rod and cone visual pigments display short wave shifts as depth increases. The blue-sensitive cone pigments of the SWS2 class cluster into two species groups with lambda(max) values of 450 and 430 nm, with the pigment in Cottus gobio, a cottoid fish native to Britain, forming a third group with a lambda(max) of 467 nm. The sequences of the SWS2 opsin gene from C. gobio and from two representatives of the 450 and 430 nm Baikal groups are presented. Approximately 6 nm of the spectral difference between C. gobio and the 450 nm Baikal group can be ascribed to the presence of a porphyropsin/rhodopin mixture in C. gobio. Subsequent analysis of amino acid substitutions by site-directed mutagenesis demonstrates that the remainder of the shift from 461 to 450 nm arises from a Thr269Ala substitution and the shift from 450 to 430 nm at least partly from Thr118Ala and Thr118Gly substitutions. The underlying adaptive significance of these substitutions in terms of spectral tuning and signal-to-noise ratio is discussed.