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ArticleMolecular and functional identification of a novel photopigment in Pecten ciliary photoreceptors(Rockefeller University Press, 2018-01-26) Arenas, Oscar ; Osorno, Tomás ; Malagón, Gerardo ; Pulido, Camila ; Gomez, Maria del Pilar ; Nasi, EnricoThe two basic animal photoreceptor types, ciliary and microvillar, use different light-transduction schemes: their photopigments couple to Gt versus Gq proteins, respectively, to either mobilize cyclic nucleotides or trigger a lipid signaling cascade. A third class of photoreceptors has been described in the dual retina of some marine invertebrates; these present a ciliary morphology but operate via radically divergent mechanisms, prompting the suggestion that they comprise a novel lineage of light sensors. In one of these organisms, an uncommon putative opsin was uncovered that was proposed to signal through Go. Orthologues subsequently emerged in diverse phyla, including mollusks, echinoderms, and chordates, but the cells in which they express have not been identified, and no studies corroborated their function as visual pigments or their suggested signaling mode. Conversely, in only one invertebrate species, Pecten irradians, have the ciliary photoreceptors been physiologically characterized, but their photopigment has not been identified molecularly. We used the transcriptome of Pecten retina to guide the cloning by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) extensions of a new member of this group of putative opsins. In situ hybridization shows selective transcription in the distal retina, and specific antibodies identify a single band of the expected molecular mass in Western blots and distinctly label ciliary photoreceptors in retina sections. RNA interference knockdown resulted in a reduction in the early receptor current—the first manifestation of light transduction—and prevented the prolonged aftercurrent, which requires a large buildup of activated rhodopsin. We also obtained a full-length clone of the α-subunit of a Go from Pecten retina complementary DNA and localized it by in situ hybridization to the distal photoreceptors. Small interfering RNA targeting this Go caused a specific depression of the photocurrent. These results establish this novel putative opsin as a bona fide visual pigment that couples to Go to convey the light signal.
ArticleLight control of G protein signaling pathways by a novel photopigment(Public Library of Science, 2018-10-01) Osorno, Tomás ; Arenas, Oscar ; Ramírez-Suarez, Nelson J. ; Echeverry, Fabio A. ; Gomez, Maria del Pilar ; Nasi, EnricoChannelopsins and photo-regulated ion channels make it possible to use light to control electrical activity of cells. This powerful approach has lead to a veritable explosion of applications, though it is limited to changing membrane voltage of the target cells. An enormous potential could be tapped if similar opto-genetic techniques could be extended to the control of chemical signaling pathways. Photopigments from invertebrate photoreceptors are an obvious choice—as they do not bleach upon illumination -however, their functional expression has been problematic. We exploited an unusual opsin, pScop2, recently identified in ciliary photoreceptors of scallop. Phylogenetically, it is closer to vertebrate opsins, and offers the advantage of being a bi-stable photopigment. We inserted its coding sequence and a fluorescent protein reporter into plasmid vectors and demonstrated heterologous expression in various mammalian cell lines. HEK 293 cells were selected as a heterologous system for functional analysis, because wild type cells displayed the largest currents in response to the G-protein activator, GTP-γ-S. A line of HEK cells stably transfected with pScop2 was generated; after reconstitution of the photopigment with retinal, light responses were obtained in some cells, albeit of modest amplitude. In native photoreceptors pScop2 couples to Go; HEK cells express poorly this G-protein, but have a prominent Gq/PLC pathway linked to internal Ca mobilization. To enhance pScop2 competence to tap into this pathway, we swapped its third intracellular loop—important to confer specificity of interaction between 7TMDRs and G-proteins—with that of a Gq-linked opsin which we cloned from microvillar photoreceptors present in the same retina. The chimeric construct was evaluated by a Ca fluorescence assay, and was shown to mediate a robust mobilization of internal calcium in response to illumination. The results project pScop2 as a potentially powerful optogenetic tool to control signaling pathways.