Rhodopsin (rh1) is the visual pigment expressed in rod photoreceptors of vertebrates that is responsible for initiating the critical first step of dim-light vision. Rhodopsin is usually a single copy gene, however, we previously discovered a novel rhodopsin-like gene expressed in the zebrafish retina, rh1-2, which we identified as a functional photosensitive pigment that binds 11-cis retinal and activates in response to light. Here, we localize expression of rh1-2 in the zebrafish retina to a subset of peripheral photoreceptor cells, which indicates a partially overlapping expression pattern with rh1. We also express, purify, and characterize Rh1-2, including investigations of the stability of the biologically active intermediate. Using fluorescence spectroscopy, we find the half-life of the rate of retinal release of Rh1-2 following photoactivation to be more similar to the visual pigment rhodopsin than to the non-visual pigment exo-rhodopsin (exorh), which releases retinal around 5 times faster. Phylogenetic and molecular evolutionary analyses show that rh1-2 has ancient origins within teleost fishes, is under similar selective pressures to rh1, and likely experienced a burst of positive selection following its duplication and divergence from rh1. These findings indicate that rh1-2 is another functional visual rhodopsin gene, which contradicts the prevailing notion that visual rhodopsin is primarily found as a single copy gene within ray-finned fishes. The reasons for retention of this duplicate gene, as well as possible functional consequences for the visual system, are discussed.
- Received August 25, 2016.
- Accepted October 25, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd