In: Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. - Lausanne : Frontiers Research Foundation. - 2016, Vol. 10, Article 80
Opsins are light-sensitive proteins that play a key role in animal vision and are related to the ancient photoreceptive molecule rhodopsin found in unicellular organisms. In general, opsins involved in vision comprise two major groups: the rhabdomeric (r-opsins) and the ciliary opsins (c-opsins). The functionality of opsins, which is dependent on their protein structure, may have changed during evolution. In arthropods, typically r-opsins are responsible for vision, whereas in vertebrates c-opsins are components of visual photoreceptors. Recently, an enigmatic r-opsin-like protein called arthropsin has been identified in various bilaterian taxa, including arthropods, lophotrochozoans, and chordates, by performing transcriptomic and genomic analyses. Since the role of arthropsin and its distribution within the body are unknown, we immunolocalized this protein in a representative of Onychophora – Euperipatoides rowelli – an ecdysozoan taxon which is regarded as one of the closest relatives of Arthropoda. Our data show that arthropsin is expressed in the central nervous system of E. rowelli, including the brain and the ventral nerve cords, but not in the eyes. These findings are consistent with previous results based on reverse transcription PCR in a closely related onychophoran species and suggest that arthropsin is a non-visual protein. Based on its distribution in the central brain region and the mushroom bodies, we speculate that the onychophoran arthropsin might be either a photosensitive molecule playing a role in the circadian clock, or a non-photosensitive protein involved in olfactory pathways, or both.