In this picture of a multicellular Volvox alga, the green circle represents something very important – its third eye.
Back in 2002, researchers identified two ion channels present in the algal cells that operated as quasi-eyes, or, at least, light detectors that triggered the photosynthetic organisms to move toward light sources.
Now, a team led by Georg Nagel from Germany’s Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg has discovered a third, labelled here in fluorescent green.
This one, however, is different, effectively checking balancing the other two: its functions are dampened, rather than boosted, by exposure to light.
Nagel and colleagues suggest further investigations could yield fresh approaches in the field of optogenetics.
The research is published in the journal BMC Biology.