Since the discovery of melanopsin as a retinal non-visual photopigment, opsins have been described in several organs and cells. This distribution is strikingly different from the classical localization of photopigments in light-exposed tissues such as the eyes and the skin. More than 10 years ago, a new paradigm in the field was created as opsins were shown, to detect not only light, but also thermal energy in Drosophila. In agreement with these findings, thermal detection by opsins was also reported in mammalian cells. Considering the presence of opsins in tissues not reached by light, an intriguing question has emerged: What is the role of a classical light-sensor, and more recently appreciated thermo-sensor, in these tissues? To tackle this question, we address in this review the most recent studies in the field, with emphasis in mammals. We provide the present view about the role of opsins in peripheral tissues, aiming to integrate the current knowledge of the presence and function of opsins in organs that are not directly affected by light.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)