The dioptric visual system relies on precisely focusing lenses that project light onto a neural retina. While the proteins that constitute the lenses of many vertebrates are relatively well characterized, less is known about the proteins that constitute invertebrate lenses, especially the lens facets in insect compound eyes. To address this question, we used mass spectrophotometry to define the major proteins that comprise the corneal lenses from the adult Drosophila melanogaster compound eye. This led to the identification of four cuticular proteins: two previously identified lens proteins, drosocrystallin and retinin, and two newly identified proteins, Cpr66D and Cpr72Ec. To determine which ommatidial cells contribute each of these proteins to the lens, we conducted in situ hybridization at 50% pupal development, a key age for lens secretion. Our results confirm previous reports that drosocrystallin and retinin are expressed in the two primary corneagenous cells—cone cells and primary pigment cells. Cpr72Ec and Cpr66D, on the other hand, are more highly expressed in higher order interommatidial pigment cells. These data suggest that the complementary expression of cuticular proteins give rise to the center vs periphery of the corneal lens facet, possibly facilitating a refractive gradient that is known to reduce spherical aberration. Moreover, these studies provide a framework for future studies aimed at understanding the cuticular basis of corneal lens function in holometabolous insect eyes.
Development Genes and Evolution – Springer Journals
Published: May 5, 2017
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