Cone photoreceptor types in zebrafish are generated by symmetric terminal divisions of dedicated precursors

Sachihiro C. Suzuki, Adam Bleckert, Philip R. Williams, Masaki Takechi, Shoji Kawamura, Rachel O.L. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Proper functioning of sensory systems requires the generation of appropriate numbers and proportions of neuronal subtypes that encode distinct information. Perception of color relies on signals from multiple cone photoreceptor types. In cone-dominated retinas, each cone expresses a single opsin type with peak sensitivity to UV, long (L) (red), medium (M) (green), or short (S) (blue) wavelengths. The modes of cell division generating distinct cone types are unknown. We report here a mechanism whereby zebrafish cone photoreceptors of the same type are produced by symmetric division of dedicated precursors. Transgenic fish in which the thyroid hormone receptor β2 (trβ2) promoter drives fluorescent protein expression before L-cone precursors themselves are produced permitted tracking of their division in vivo. Every L cone in a local region resulted from the terminal division of an L-cone precursor, suggesting that such divisions contribute significantly to L-cone production. Analysis of the fate of isolated pairs of cones and time-lapse observations suggest that other cone types can also arise by symmetric terminal divisions. Such divisions of dedicated precursors may help to rapidly attain the final numbers and proportions of cone types (L > M, UV > S) in zebrafish larvae. Loss- and gain-of-function experiments show that L-opsin expression requires trβ2 activity before cone differentiation. Ectopic expression of trβ2 after cone differentiation produces cones with mixed opsins. Temporal differences in the onset of trβ2 expression could explain why some species have mixed, and others have pure, cone types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15109-15114
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 10 2013


  • Cone genesis
  • In vivo time-lapse imaging
  • Vertebrate cone photoreceptors
  • Zebrafish retina


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