Biologists at New York University have identified a key factor that enables photoreceptor cells to decide their color sensitivity. The findings, which were uncovered by researchers in Professor Claude Desplans laboratory in NYUs Center for Developmental Genetics, were published in the March 9th issue of the journal Nature.
The researchers used the fruit fly Drosophila as a genetic model system to study stochastic events like color sensitivity in photoreceptor cells. The eye of the fly contains some 800 optical units, called ommatidia. Each ommatidium contains six outer and two inner photoreceptors (R7 and R8); the inner receptors detect color, like cone cells in human eyes. Approximately 30 percent of the ommatidia are named "pale," with sensitivity to blue light, and about 70 percent are called "yellow," with sensitivity to green light. This ratio of 30 to 70 appears in a large number of diverse species of flies. However, these receptors are stochastically (or randomly) distributed.
Desplan, the corresponding author of the article, said, "The key question we explored was how each individual R7 and R8 receptor decides to be either pale or yellow, and how this decision contributes to the stochastic distribution of each type in the mosaic of color photoreceptors in the fruit flies eyes."
James Devitt | EurekAlert!
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