Localisation and origin of the bacteriochlorophyll-derived photosensitizer in the retina of the deep-sea dragon fish Malacosteus niger

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Douglas, R. H. ; Genner, Martin J ; Hudson, Alan ; Partridge, Julian C ; Wagner, H.-J. (2016)
  • Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
  • Journal: volume 6 (issn: 2045-2322, eissn: 2045-2322)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC5171636, doi: 10.1038/srep39395
  • Subject: /dk/atira/pure/researchoutput/pubmedpublicationtype/D016428 | Journal Article | Article
    mesheuropmc: eye diseases | genetic structures | sense organs

Most deep-sea fish have a single visual pigment maximally sensitive at short wavelengths, approximately matching the spectrum of both downwelling sunlight and bioluminescence. However, Malcosteus niger produces far-red bioluminescence and its longwave retinal sensitivity is enhanced by redshifted visual pigments, a longwave reflecting tapetum and, uniquely, a bacteriochlorophyll-derived photosensitizer. The origin of the photosensitizer, however, remains unclear. We investigated whether the bacteriochlorophyll was produced by endosymbiotic bacteria within unusual structures adjacent to the photoreceptors that had previously been described in this species. However, microscopy, elemental analysis and SYTOX green staining<br/>provided no evidence for such localised retinal bacteria, instead the photosensitizer was shown to be distributed throughout the retina. Furthermore, comparison of mRNA from the retina of Malacosteus to that of the closely related Pachystomias microdon (which does not contain a bacterichlorophyll-derived photosensitzer) revealed no genes of bacterial origin that were specifically up-regulated in Malacosteus. Instead up-regulated Malacosteus genes were associated with photosensitivity and may relate to its unique visual ecology and the chlorophyll-based visual system. We also suggest that the unusual longwave-reflecting, astaxanthin-based, tapetum of Malacosteus may protect the retina from the potential cytotoxicity of such a system.
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