Pteropsin: A vertebrate-like non-visual opsin expressed in the honey bee brain

Rodrigo A. Velarde, Colin D. Sauer, Kimberly K.O. Walden, Susan E. Fahrbach, Hugh M. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insects have excellent color vision based on the expression of different opsins in specific sets of photoreceptive cells. Opsins are members of the rhodopsin superfamily of G-protein coupled receptors, and are transmembrane proteins found coupled to light-sensitive chromophores in animal photoreceptors. Diversification of opsins during animal evolution provided the basis for the development of wavelength-specific behavior and color vision, but with the exception of the recently discovered non-visual melanopsins, vertebrate and invertebrate opsins have generally been viewed as representing distinct lineages. We report a novel lineage of insect opsins, designated pteropsins. On the basis of sequence analysis and intron location, pteropsins are more closely related to vertebrate visual opsins than to invertebrate opsins. Of note is that the pteropsins are missing entirely from the genome of drosophilid flies. In situ hybridization studies of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, revealed that pteropsin is expressed in the brain of this species and not in either the simple or compound eyes. It was also possible, on the basis of in situ hybridization studies, to assign different long wavelength opsins to the compound eyes (AmLop1) and ocelli (AmLop2). Insect pteropsin might be orthologous to a ciliary opsin recently described from the annelid Platynereis, and therefore represents the presence of this vertebrate-like light-detecting system in insects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1367-1377
Number of pages11
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Apis mellifera
  • G-protein-coupled receptors
  • Honey bee
  • Opsin
  • Pteropsin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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