Emergence of novel color vision in mice engineered to express a human cone photopigment

Gerald H. Jacobs, Gary A. Williams, Hugh Cahill, Jeremy Nathans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Changes in the genes encoding sensory receptor proteins are an essential step in the evolution of new sensory capacities. In primates, trichromatic color vision evolved after changes in X chromosome-linked photopigment genes. To model this process, we studied knock-in mice that expressed a human long-wavelength-sensitive (L) cone photopigment in the form of an X-linked polymorphism. Behavioral tests demonstrated that heterozygous females, whose retinas contained both native mouse pigments and human L pigment, showed enhanced long-wavelength sensitivity and acquired a new capacity for chromatic discrimination. An inherent plasticity in the mammalian visual system thus permits the emergence of a new dimension of sensory experience based solely on gene-driven changes in receptor organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1723-1725
Number of pages3
Issue number5819
StatePublished - Mar 23 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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