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An accessory chromophore in red vision

Nature volume 443, page 649 (12 October 2006) | Download Citation



In the absence of a red-sensitive visual pigment, some deep-sea fish use a chlorophyll derivative in their green-sensitive rod cells in order to see deep-red light1,2,3. Here we show that living rods extracted from a salamander can also accumulate an exogenous chlorophyll derivative, chlorin e6, that renders them as sensitive to red light as they are to green. This vision enhancement by an unbleachable chlorophyll derivative might therefore be a general phenomenon in vertebrate photoreception.

The rods in salamanders' retinas can co-opt a molecule derived from chlorophyll to detect red light.

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Author information


  1. *Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA

    • T. Isayama
    • , D. Alexeev
    •  & C. L. Makino
  2. †Department of Chemistry, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA

    • I. Washington
    • , K. Nakanishi
    •  & N. J. Turro


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to C. L. Makino.

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