Ferrer Camilo

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  • Article
    The light-sensitive conductance of melanopsin-expressing Joseph and Hesse cells in amphioxus
    (Rockefeller University Press, 2011-12-26) Pulido, Camila ; Malagon, Gerardo ; Ferrer, Camilo ; Chen, Jun Kui ; Angueyra, Juan Manuel ; Nasi, Enrico ; Gomez, Maria del Pilar
    Two types of microvillar photoreceptors in the neural tube of amphioxus, an early chordate, sense light via melanopsin, the same photopigment as in “circadian” light detectors of higher vertebrates. Because in amphioxus melanopsin activates a Gq/phospholipase C cascade, like phototransduction in arthropods and mollusks, possible commonalities in the photoconductance were investigated. Unlike other microvillar photoreceptors, reversal of the photocurrent can only be attained upon replacement of extracellular Na+. In addition to Na+, Ca2+ is also permeant, as indicated by the fact that (a) in normal ionic conditions the photocurrent remains inward at Vm > ENa; (b) in Na-free solution a small residual inward photocurrent persists at Vm near resting level, provided that Ca is present; and (c) Vrev exhibits a modest shift with [Ca]o manipulations. The unusual reversal is accounted for by an uncommonly low permeability of the light-dependent channels to K+, as [K]o only marginally affects the photocurrent amplitude and its reversal. Lanthanum and ruthenium red (RuR), two TRP channel antagonists, reversibly suppress the response to photostimulation of moderate intensity; therefore, the melanopsin-initiated cascade may recruit ion channels of the same family as those of rhabdomeric photoreceptors. With brighter lights, blockage declines, so that both La3+ and RuR induce a right shift in the sensitivity curve without a reduction of its asymptote. Nonetheless, an effect on the transduction cascade, rather than the channels, was ruled out on the basis of the voltage dependency of the blockade and the lack of effects of intracellular application of the same substances. The mechanisms of action of these antagonists thus entail a state-dependent blockade, with a higher affinity for the channel in the closed conformation. Collectively, the results indicate a kinship of the light-sensitive channels of amphioxus with those of invertebrate rhabdomeric visual cells and support the representation of this lineage of photoreceptors among chordates.
  • Article
    Dissecting the determinants of light sensitivity in amphioxus microvillar photoreceptors : possible evolutionary implications for melanopsin signaling
    (Society for Neuroscience, 2012-12-12) Ferrer, Camilo ; Malagon, Gerardo ; Gomez, Maria del Pilar ; Nasi, Enrico
    Melanopsin, a photopigment related to the rhodopsin of microvillar photoreceptors of invertebrates, evolved in vertebrates to subserve nonvisual light-sensing functions, such as the pupillary reflex and entrainment of circadian rhythms. However, vertebrate circadian receptors display no hint of a microvillar specialization and show an extremely low light sensitivity and sluggish kinetics. Recently in amphioxus, the most basal chordate, melanopsin-expressing photoreceptors were characterized; these cells share salient properties with both rhabdomeric photoreceptors of invertebrates and circadian receptors of vertebrates. We used electrophysiology to dissect the gain of the light-transduction process in amphioxus and examine key features that help outline the evolutionary transition toward a sensor optimized to report mean ambient illumination rather than mediating spatial vision. By comparing the size of current fluctuations attributable to single photon melanopsin isomerizations with the size of single-channels activated by light, we concluded that the gain of the transduction cascade is lower than in rhabdomeric receptors. In contrast, the expression level of melanopsin (gauged by measuring charge displacements during photo-induced melanopsin isomerization) is comparable with that of canonical visual receptors. A modest amplification in melanopsin-using receptors is therefore apparent in early chordates; the decrease in photopigment expression—and loss of the anatomical correlates—observed in vertebrates subsequently enabled them to attain the low photosensitivity tailored to the role of circadian receptors.