The Subtly Different Squid Eye

Posted on May 19, 2008  Comments (0)

The subtly different squid eye by PZ Myers:

the inside out organization of the cephalopod eye relative to ours: they have photoreceptors that face towards the light, while we have photoreceptors that are facing away from the light. There are other important differences, though, some of which came out in a recent Nature podcast with Adam Rutherford, which was prompted by a recent publication on the structure of squid rhodopsin.

Superficially, squid eyes resemble ours. Both are simple camera eyes with a lens that projects an image onto a retina, but the major details of these eyes evolved independently – the last common ancestor probably had little more than a patch of light sensitive cells with an opsin-based photopigment. The general properties of this ancient eye can still be seen in modern eyes. They detect light with a simple molecule called retinal that is capable of absorbing a photon, changing its shape from the 11-cis form to the all trans form; basically, it flips from a chain with a kink to a straight chain. Retinal is imbedded in a protein called opsin. When retinal changes shape, it changes the shape of the opsin protein, too, which can then interact with other proteins in the cell membrane.

The next protein in the sequence is called a G protein. G proteins are ubiquitous intermediates for many cellular processes; when a receptor, like opsin, is activated, it activates a G protein, which then activates other proteins, starting a signaling cascade. In the podcast, I compare this to starting an avalanche. Opsin is an agent standing on a hill; when it receives a light signal, it nudges a small boulder (the G protein), which then tumbles down setting a whole series of rocks in motion. The G protein is an intermediate which takes a small change, the initial nudge, and amplifies it into the activation of many other proteins.

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