- Magnetoreception: activated cryptochrome 1a concurs with magnetic orientation in birds (2013)
- The radical pair model proposes that the avian magnetic compass is based on radical pair processes in the eye, with cryptochrome, a flavoprotein, suggested as receptor molecule. Cryptochrome 1a (Cry1a) is localized at the discs of the outer segments of the UV/violet cones of European robins and chickens. Here, we show the activation characteristics of a bird cryptochrome in vivo under natural conditions. We exposed chickens for 30 min to different light regimes and analysed the amount of Cry1a labelled with an antiserum against an epitope at the C-terminus of this protein. The staining after exposure to sunlight and to darkness indicated that the antiserum labels only an illuminated, activated form of Cry1a. Exposure to narrow-bandwidth lights of various wavelengths revealed activated Cry1a at UV, blue and turquoise light. With green and yellow, the amount of activated Cry1a was reduced, and with red, as in the dark, no activated Cry1a was labelled. Activated Cry1a is thus found at all those wavelengths at which birds can orient using their magnetic inclination compass, supporting the role of Cry1a as receptor molecule. The observation that activated Cry1a and well-oriented behaviour occur at 565 nm green light, a wavelength not absorbed by the fully oxidized form of cryptochrome, suggests that a state other than the previously suggested Trp/FAD radical pair formed during photoreduction is crucial for detecting magnetic directions.
- Bat eyes have ultraviolet-sensitive cone photoreceptors (2009)
- Mammalian retinae have rod photoreceptors for night vision and cone photoreceptors for daylight and colour vision. For colour discrimination, most mammals possess two cone populations with two visual pigments (opsins) that have absorption maxima at short wavelengths (blue or ultraviolet light) and long wavelengths (green or red light). Microchiropteran bats, which use echolocation to navigate and forage in complete darkness, have long been considered to have pure rod retinae. Here we use opsin immunohistochemistry to show that two phyllostomid microbats, Glossophaga soricina and Carollia perspicillata, possess a significant population of cones and express two cone opsins, a shortwave-sensitive (S) opsin and a longwave-sensitive (L) opsin. A substantial population of cones expresses S opsin exclusively, whereas the other cones mostly coexpress L and S opsin. S opsin gene analysis suggests ultraviolet (UV, wavelengths <400 nm) sensitivity, and corneal electroretinogram recordings reveal an elevated sensitivity to UV light which is mediated by an S cone visual pigment. Therefore bats have retained the ancestral UV tuning of the S cone pigment. We conclude that bats have the prerequisite for daylight vision, dichromatic colour vision, and UV vision. For bats, the UV-sensitive cones may be advantageous for visual orientation at twilight, predator avoidance, and detection of UV-reflecting flowers for those that feed on nectar.
- Novel rodent models for macular research (2010)
- Background: Many disabling human retinal disorders involve the central retina, particularly the macula. However, the commonly used rodent models in research, mouse and rat, do not possess a macula. The purpose of this study was to identify small laboratory rodents with a significant central region as potential new models for macular research. Methodology/Principal Findings: Gerbillus perpallidus, Meriones unguiculatus and Phodopus campbelli, laboratory rodents less commonly used in retinal research, were subjected to confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO), fluorescein and indocyanine green angiography, and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) using standard equipment (Heidelberg Engineering HRA1 and Spectralis™) adapted to small rodent eyes. The existence of a visual streak-like pattern was assessed on the basis of vascular topography, retinal thickness, and the topography of retinal ganglion cells and cone photoreceptors. All three species examined showed evidence of a significant horizontal streak-like specialization. cSLO angiography and retinal wholemounts revealed that superficial retinal blood vessels typically ramify and narrow into a sparse capillary net at the border of the respective area located dorsal to the optic nerve. Similar to the macular region, there was an absence of larger blood vessels in the streak region. Furthermore, the thickness of the photoreceptor layer and the population density of neurons in the ganglion cell layer were markedly increased in the visual streak region. Conclusions/Significance: The retinal specializations of Gerbillus perpallidus, Meriones unguiculatus and Phodopus campbelli resemble features of the primate macula. Hence, the rodents reported here may serve to study aspects of macular development and diseases like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema, and the preclinical assessment of therapeutic strategies.
- Avian ultraviolet/violet cones identified as probable magnetoreceptors (2011)
- Background: The Radical-Pair-Model postulates that the reception of magnetic compass directions in birds is based on spin-chemical reactions in specialized photopigments in the eye, with cryptochromes discussed as candidate molecules. But so far, the exact subcellular characterization of these molecules in the retina remained unknown. Methodology/Principal Findings: We here describe the localization of cryptochrome 1a (Cry1a) in the retina of European robins, Erithacus rubecula, and domestic chickens, Gallus gallus, two species that have been shown to use the magnetic field for compass orientation. In both species, Cry1a is present exclusively in the ultraviolet/violet (UV/V) cones that are distributed across the entire retina. Electron microscopy shows Cry1a in ordered bands along the membrane discs of the outer segment, and cell fractionation reveals Cry1a in the membrane fraction, suggesting the possibility that Cry1a is anchored along membranes. Conclusions/Significance: We provide first structural evidence that Cry1a occurs within a sensory structure arranged in a way that fulfils essential requirements of the Radical-Pair-Model. Our findings, identifying the UV/V-cones as probable magnetoreceptors, support the assumption that Cry1a is indeed the receptor molecule mediating information on magnetic directions, and thus provide the Radical-Pair-Model with a profound histological background.
- Retinal cone photoreceptors of the deer mouse Peromyscus maniculatus: development, topography, opsin expression and spectral tuning (2013)
- A quantitative analysis of photoreceptor properties was performed in the retina of the nocturnal deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, using pigmented (wildtype) and albino animals. The aim was to establish whether the deer mouse is a more suitable model species than the house mouse for photoreceptor studies, and whether oculocutaneous albinism affects its photoreceptor properties. In retinal flatmounts, cone photoreceptors were identified by opsin immunostaining, and their numbers, spectral types, and distributions across the retina were determined. Rod photoreceptors were counted using differential interference contrast microscopy. Pigmented P. maniculatus have a rod-dominated retina with rod densities of about 450.000/mm(2) and cone densities of 3000 - 6500/mm(2). Two cone opsins, shortwave sensitive (S) and middle-to-longwave sensitive (M), are present and expressed in distinct cone types. Partial sequencing of the S opsin gene strongly supports UV sensitivity of the S cone visual pigment. The S cones constitute a 5-15% minority of the cones. Different from house mouse, S and M cone distributions do not have dorsoventral gradients, and coexpression of both opsins in single cones is exceptional (<2% of the cones). In albino P. maniculatus, rod densities are reduced by approximately 40% (270.000/mm(2)). Overall, cone density and the density of cones exclusively expressing S opsin are not significantly different from pigmented P. maniculatus. However, in albino retinas S opsin is coexpressed with M opsin in 60-90% of the cones and therefore the population of cones expressing only M opsin is significantly reduced to 5-25%. In conclusion, deer mouse cone properties largely conform to the general mammalian pattern, hence the deer mouse may be better suited than the house mouse for the study of certain basic cone properties, including the effects of albinism on cone opsin expression.
- DNA methylation reader MECP2: cell type- and differentiation stage-specific protein distribution (2014)
- Background: Methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MECP2) is a protein that specifically binds methylated DNA, thus regulating transcription and chromatin organization. Mutations in the gene have been identified as the principal cause of Rett syndrome, a severe neurological disorder. Although the role of MECP2 has been extensively studied in nervous tissues, still very little is known about its function and cell type specific distribution in other tissues. Results: Using immunostaining on tissue cryosections, we characterized the distribution of MECP2 in 60 cell types of 16 mouse neuronal and non-neuronal tissues. We show that MECP2 is expressed at a very high level in all retinal neurons except rod photoreceptors. The onset of its expression during retina development coincides with massive synapse formation. In contrast to astroglia, retinal microglial cells lack MECP2, similar to microglia in the brain, cerebellum, and spinal cord. MECP2 is also present in almost all non-neural cell types, with the exception of intestinal epithelial cells, erythropoietic cells, and hair matrix keratinocytes. Our study demonstrates the role of MECP2 as a marker of the differentiated state in all studied cells other than oocytes and spermatogenic cells. MECP2-deficient male (Mecp2−/y) mice show no apparent defects in the morphology and development of the retina. The nuclear architecture of retinal neurons is also unaffected as the degree of chromocenter fusion and the distribution of major histone modifications do not differ between Mecp2−/y and Mecp2wt mice. Surprisingly, the absence of MECP2 is not compensated by other methyl-CpG binding proteins. On the contrary, their mRNA levels were downregulated in Mecp2−/y mice. Conclusions: MECP2 is almost universally expressed in all studied cell types with few exceptions, including microglia. MECP2 deficiency does not change the nuclear architecture and epigenetic landscape of retinal cells despite the missing compensatory expression of other methyl-CpG binding proteins. Furthermore, retinal development and morphology are also preserved in Mecp2-null mice. Our study reveals the significance of MECP2 function in cell differentiation and sets the basis for future investigations in this direction.