News FocusPhysiology

Opsins: Not Just for Eyes

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Science  15 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6121, pp. 754-755
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6121.754

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When researchers got their first glimpse of the sea urchin genome in 2006, they were surprised to find genes for opsins, light-sensitive proteins without which vision as we know it today would be impossible. Further work showed that sea urchin tube feet were loaded with photoreceptor cells that had been missed because they lack pigment typically associated with opsins. That work and other recent studies have driven home the fact that a wide variety of organisms don't need traditional eyes to make use of opsins, and that opsins can likely sense more than light. Last month, at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in San Francisco, researchers revealed the rich history and unexpectedly broad utility of these proteins.