The retinal mosaics of opsin expression in invertebrates and vertebrates

Jens Rister, Claude Desplan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Color vision is found in many invertebrate and vertebrate species. It is the ability to discriminate objects based on the wavelength of emitted light independent of intensity. As it requires the comparison of at least two photoreceptor types with different spectral sensitivities, this process is often mediated by a mosaic made of several photoreceptor types. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the formation of retinal mosaics and the regulation of photopigment (opsin) expression in the fly, mouse, and human retina. Despite distinct evolutionary origins, as well as major differences in morphology and phototransduction machineries, there are significant similarities in the stepwise cell-fate decisions that lead from progenitor cells to terminally differentiated photoreceptors that express a particular opsin. Common themes include (i) the use of binary transcriptional switches that distinguish classes of photoreceptors, (ii) the use of gradients of signaling molecules for regional specializations, (iii) stochastic choices that pattern the retina, and (iv) the use of permissive factors with multiple roles in different photoreceptor types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1212-1226
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Neurobiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Color vision
  • Opsin
  • Photoreceptor
  • Retinal mosaic
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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