Molecular genetics of spectral tuning in New World monkey color vision

Song Kun Shyue, Stéphane Boissinot, Horacio Schneider, Iracilda Sampaio, Maria Paula Schneider, C. R. Abee, Lawrence Williams, David Hewett-Emmett, Harry G. Sperling, Jill A. Cowing, Kanwaljit S. Dulai, David M. Hunt, Wen Hsiung Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although most New World monkeys have only one X-linked photopigment locus, many species have three polymorphic alleles at the locus. The three alleles in the squirrel monkey and capuchin have spectral peaks near 562, 550, and 535 nm, respectively, and the three alleles in the marmoset and tamarin have spectral peaks near 562, 556, and 543 nm, respectively. To determine the amino acids responsible for the spectral sensitivity differences among these pigment variants, we sequenced all exons of the three alleles in each of these four species. From the deduced amino acid sequences and the spectral peak information and from previous studies of the spectral tuning of X-linked pigments in humans and New World monkeys, we estimated that the Ala → Ser, Ile → Phe, Gly → Ser, Phe → Tyr, and Ala → Tyr substitutions at residue positions 180, 229, 233, 277, and 285, respectively, cause spectral shifts of about 5, -2, -1, 8, and 15 nm. On the other hand, the substitutions His → Tyr, Met → Val or Leu, and Ala → Tyr at positions 116, 275, and 276, respectively, have no discernible spectral tuning effect, though residues 275 and 276 are inside the transmembrane domains. Many substitutions between Val and Ile or between Val and Ala have occurred in the transmembrane domains among the New World monkey pigment variants but apparently have no effect on spectral tuning. Our study suggests that, in addition to amino acid changes involving a hydroxyl group, large changes in residue size can also cause a spectral shift in a visual pigment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-702
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998


  • Amino acid change
  • Color vision
  • New World monkeys
  • Photopigments
  • Spectral tuning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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