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Steven G Britt, MD


Department of Ophthalmology
Department of Cell & Developmental Biology
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Anschutz Medical Campus
12801 East 17th Avenue, 8108
Aurora, CO 80045

Office: (303) 724-3441

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Britt’s laboratory studies the molecular genetics of eye development and vision. Color vision is dependent upon the presence of photoreceptor neurons that are sensitive to different colors of light. This requires both a developmental program that generates different types of photoreceptor cells, and a collection of light sensitive pigments, expressed in different cells, that detect different colors of light. Dr. Britt’s lab is working on the molecular genetics of both of these problems using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Dr. Britt’s lab has found that the cell fate and visual pigment expression pattern of adjacent photoreceptor cells is tightly coordinated. It appears that one retinal cell type in the eye adopts one of two different cell fates in a stochastic (random) manner, and then communicates this decision (inductively) to the adjacent photoreceptor cell. These events coordinate the expression of the visual pigments in these two cells, and produce two types of optical units within the eye that have distinct color sensitivities.

Dr. Britt’s lab is also examining how the structures of different visual pigments regulate their color sensitivity. They have identified specific amino acid residues that are responsible for regulating UV vs. visible and blue vs. green sensitivity in insects. Interestingly, these same amino acid sites in human and other vertebrate visual pigments are also responsible for tuning color sensitivity. Mutations at these sites may also lead to inherited forms of blindness. In addition, these same amino acid sites in human neurotransmitter receptors regulate the binding of transmitters and drugs as well as receptor activation.


  • Medical School: University of Texas Medical Branch
  • Fellowship: Postdoctoral Research Fellowship – University of Virginia, Department of Pathology
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship – University of California, San Diego, Department of Biology


1985 - Elias Hochman Award in Environmental Research, University of Texas Medical Branch

1986 - Joseph B. Kass Research Award, University of Texas Medical Branch

1986 - Medical Student Research Award, University of Texas Medical Branch

1998 - American Cancer Society, National Organization, Physician’s Research Training Award (declined)

1989-1995 - National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute, Individual Physician Scientist Award 

2010 - Teaching Excellence Award, Class of 2012 University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine