Emeritus Professor Trevor Lamb

BE (Melbourne), ScD (Cambridge), FRS, FAA
Emeritus Professor

After obtaining a degree in electronic engineering at Melbourne University, Trevor Lamb transferred to physiology, before travelling to Cambridge in 1971 to undertake his Ph.D. There he met Denis Baylor in Alan Hodgkin’s laboratory, and under their guidance began working on the retina: first on horizontal cells and then on photoreceptors.

During a productive post-doc in Baylor’s lab in Stanford in 1977, he, King-Wai Yau, and Baylor developed the suction pipette technique for recording electrically from photoreceptors, and discovered that rods could respond reliably to individual photons of light. Subsequently he was based in Cambridge for 25 years, and continued to work on photoreceptors – on the molecular mechanisms of activation and inactivation of the light response, and on light adaptation and dark adaptation.

In the early 1990s he and Edward Pugh (at University of Pennsylvania) developed a mathematical description of the molecular reactions underlying the onset phase of the photoreceptor’s light response, which has provided important insights into the transduction mechanism. In the mid-1990s he branched out into using the electroretinogram (ERG) as a tool for studying photoreceptors in vivo. Most recently he has investigated the evolutionary origin of the retina and photoreceptors.

In 1993 Trevor was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in the following year he was promoted to a chair at Cambridge. In 2003 he returned to Australia as a Federation Fellow at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU. In 2006 he became the founding Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and in 2008 he was appointed a Distinguished Professor at ANU. Tiring of administration and management, he took early retirement in 2011, and was appointed Emeritus Professor at the ANU, where he actively continues his research on phototransduction and on the evolution of the cascade in vertebrates.

Research interests

My current research involves three distinct areas involving retinal rod and cone photoreceptors:

  1. The molecular mechanism of phototransduction, whereby light triggers a neural responses in the rod and cone photoreceptors that lie in the retina at the back of our eye. Much of this work involves simulation of the sets of protein interactions that have been proposed to occur in the G-protein cascade of phototransduction. Current interest focuses on the role that the dimeric nature of activation of the phosphodiesterase (PDE6) plays in optimising the photoreceptor’s response to light. Also important is the provision of a quantitative analysis explaining the different responses properties of rods and cone.
  2. The cellular and molecular basis of ‘dark adaptation’ of the visual system, following exposure of the eye to intense illumination. In the ‘scotopic’ rod system, the slowness of recovery of visual sensitivity results from the presence of tiny amounts of a photoproduct (unregenerated visual pigment, rhodopsin), rather than from lowered light absorption due to depletion of rhodopsin levels. Current research focuses on providing a quantitative description of the manner in which biochemical reactions in the ‘retinoid cycle’, together with diffusional barriers, act together to limit the rate at which the final traces of photoproduct are removed, and visual sensitivity returns to normal.
  3. The evolution of the phototransduction cascade in rods and cones. Rod and cone photoreceptors represent a unique evolutionary system, whereby the same sensory process (detection of light) is mediated by separate classes of cell that express different isoforms of a dozen important proteins. In most cases, these different isoforms arose through two rounds of whole-genome duplication (‘2R WGD’) that occurred in an ancestor of all vertebrate organisms around 500 million years ago. This project involves analysis of gene phylogeny and gene synteny across the whole set of proteins that mediate phototransduction, and is aimed at establishing the sequence and timing of all the gene duplications that led to the transduction cascades in our rods and cones.

Lamb, T & Hunt, D 2018, 'Evolution of the calcium feedback steps of vertebrate phototransduction', Open Biology, vol. 8, 180119.

Lamb, T, Heck, M & Kraft, T 2018, 'Implications of dimeric activation of PDE6 for rod phototransduction', Open Biology, vol. 8, 180076.

Qureshi BM, Behrmann E, Schöneberg J et al. 2018, 'It takes two transducins to activate the cGMP-phosphodiesterase 6 in retinal rods', Open Biology, vol. 8, 180076.

Lamb, T, Patel, H, Chuah, A et al 2018, 'Evolution of the shut-off steps of vertebrate phototransduction', Open Biology, vol. 8, 170232.

Lamb, T & Hunt, D 2017, 'Evolution of the vertebrate phototransduction cascade activation steps', Developmental Biology, vol. 431, no. 1, pp. 77-92.

Lamb, T, Patel, H, Chuah, A et al 2016, 'Evolution of Vertebrate Phototransduction: Cascade Activation', Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 33, no. 8, pp. 2064-2087.

Lamb, T 2016, 'Why rods and cones?', Eye, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 179-185pp.

Lamb, T & Kraft, T 2016, 'Quantitative modeling of the molecular steps underlying shut-off of rhodopsin activity in rod phototransduction', Molecular Vision, vol. 22, pp. 674-696.

Lamb, T, Corless, R & Pananlos, A 2015, 'The kinetics of regeneration of rhodopsin under enzyme-limited availability of 11-cis retinoid', Vision Research, vol. 110, no. Part A, pp. 23-33.

Lamb, T 2013, 'Evolution of phototransduction, vertebrate photoreceptors and retina', Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, vol. 36, pp. 52-119.

Mahroo, O & Lamb, T 2012, 'Slowed recovery of human photopic ERG a-wave amplitude following intense bleaches: A slowing of cone pigment regeneration?', Documenta Ophthalmologica, vol. 125, no. 2, pp. 137-147.

Mahroo, O, Ban, V, Bussman, B et al 2012, 'Modelling the initial phase of the human rod photoreceptor response to the onset of steady illumination', Documenta Ophthalmologica, vol. 124, no. 2, pp. 125-131.

Ruseckaite, R, Lamb, T, Pianta, M et al 2011, 'Human scotopic dark adaptation: Comparison of recoveries of psychophysical threshold and ERG b-wave sensitivity', Journal of Vision, vol. 11, no. 8, pp. 1-16.

Vogalis, F, Shiraki, T, Kojima, D et al 2011, 'Ectopic expression of cone-specific G-protein-coupled receptor kinase GRK7 in zebrafish rods leads to lower photosensitivity and altered responses', Journal of Physiology, vol. 589, no. 9, pp. 2321-2348.

Lamb, T 2011, 'Evolution of the eye. Scientists now have a clear vision of how our notoriously complex eye came to be.', Scientific American, vol. 305, no. 1, pp. 64-69.

Lamb, T 2009, 'Evolution of vertebrate retinal photoreception', Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society: B- Biological Sciences, vol. 364, no. 2009, pp. 2911-2924.

Lamb, T, Arendt, D & Collin, S, eds, 2009, The evolution of phototransduction and eyes, 364.

Cameron, A, Miao, L, Ruseckaite, R et al 2008, 'Dark adaptation recovery of human rod bipolar cell response kinetics estimated from scotopic b-wave measurements', Journal of Physiology, vol. 586, no. 22, pp. 5419-5436.

Lamb, T, Pugh, E & Collin, S 2008, 'The origin of the vertebrate eye', Evolution: Education and Outreach, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 415-426.

Lamb, T, Collin, S & Pugh, E 2007, 'Evolution of the vertebrate eye: opsins, photoreceptors, retina and eye cup.', Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol. 8, no. (December), pp. 960-975.

Cameron, A, Mahroo, O & Lamb, T 2006, 'Dark adaptation of human rod bipolar cells measured from the b-wave of the scotopic electroretinogram', Journal of Physiology, vol. 575, no. 2, pp. 507-526.

Lamb, T & Pugh, E 2006, 'Phototransduction, dark adaption, and rhodopsin regeneration', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 47, no. 12, pp. 5138-5153.

van Hateren, J & Lamb, T 2006, 'The photocurrent response of human cones in fast and monophasic', BMC Neuroscience, vol. 7, no. 34, pp. 1-8.

Hamer, R, Nicholas, S, Tranchina, D et al 2005, 'Towards a unified model of verebrate rod phototransduction', Visual Neuroscience, vol. 22, pp. 417-436.

Kenkre, J, Moran, N, Lamb, T et al 2005, 'Extremely rapid recovery of human cone circulating current at the extinction of bleaching exposures', Journal of Physiology, vol. 567, no. 1, pp. 95-112.

Jaervinen, J & Lamb, T 2005, 'Inverted photocurrent responses from amphibian rod photoreceptors: role of membrane voltage in response recovery', Journal of Physiology, vol. 566, no. 2, pp. 455-466.

Wenzel, A, Oberhauser, V, Pugh, E et al 2005, 'The Retinal G Protein-coupled Receptor (RGR) Enhances Isomerohydrolase Activity Independent of Light', Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 280, no. 33, pp. 29874-29884.

Lamb, T & Burns, M 2004, 'Visual transduction by rod and cone photoreceptors', in Leo Chalupa & J.S.Werner (ed.), The Visual Neurosciences, MIT Press, Cambridge, USA, pp. 215-233.

Lamb, T & Pugh, E 2004, 'Dark adaptation and the retinoid cycle of vision', Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 307-380.

Mahroo, O & Lamb, T 2004, 'Recovery of the human photopic electroretinogram after bleaching exposures: estimation of pigment regeneration kinetics', Journal of Physiology, vol. 554, no. 2, pp. 417-437.

Friedburg, C, Allen, C, Mason, P et al 2004, 'Contribution of cone photoreceptors and post-receptoral mechanisms to the human photopic electroretinogram', Journal of Physiology, vol. 556, no. 3, pp. 819-834.

Hamer, R, Nicholas, S, Tranchina, D et al 2003, 'Multiple steps of phosphorylation of activated rhodopsin can account for the reproducibility of vertebrate rod single-photon responses', Journal of General Physiology, vol. 122, no. 4, pp. 419-444.

Arshavsky, V, Lamb, T & Pugh, E 2002, 'G Proteins and Phototransduction.', Annual Review of Physiology, vol. 64, pp. 153-187.

Friedburg, C, Thomas, M & Lamb, T 2001, 'Time course of the flash response of dark-and-light adapted human rod photoreceptors derived from the electroretinogram', Journal of Physiology, vol. 534, no. 1, pp. 217 - 242.