AskDefine | Define rhodopsin

Dictionary Definition

rhodopsin n : a red photopigment in the retinal rods of vertebrates; dissociates into retinene by light [syn: visual purple, retinal purple]

User Contributed Dictionary



From rhodon ("rose"), due to its pinkish color.


  1. A light-sensitive pigment in the rod cells of the retina; it consists of an opsin protein bound to the carotenoid retinal


Extensive Definition

Rhodopsin, also known as visual purple, is a pigment of the retina that is responsible for both the formation of the photoreceptor cells and the first events in the perception of light. Rhodopsins belong to the G-protein coupled receptor family and are extremely sensitive to light, enabling vision in low-light conditions. Exposed to white light, the pigment immediately photobleaches, and it takes about 30 minutes to regenerate fully in humans.


Rhodopsin consists of the protein moiety opsin and a reversibly covalently bound cofactor, retinal. Opsin, a bundle of seven transmembrane helices, binds retinal, a photoreactive chromophore, in a central pocket. Retinal is produced in the retina from Vitamin A. Isomerization of 11-cis-retinal into all-trans-retinal by light induces a conformational change in opsin that activates the associated G protein and triggers a second messenger cascade.
Rhodopsin of the rods most strongly absorbs green-blue light and therefore appears reddish-purple, which is why it is also called "visual purple". It is responsible for monochromatic vision in the dark.
Several closely related opsins, the photopsins, exist that differ only in a few amino acids and in the wavelengths of light that they absorb most strongly. These pigments are found in the different types of the cone cells of the retina and are the basis of color vision. Humans have three different other opsins beside rhodopsin, with absorption maxima for yellowish-green (photopsin I), green (photopsin II), and bluish-violet (photopsin III) light.
The photoisomerization of rhodopsin has been studied in detail via x-ray crystallography on rhodopsin crystals. A first photoproduct called photorhodopsin forms within 200 femtoseconds after irradiation followed within picoseconds by a second one called bathorhodopsin with distorted all-trans bonds. This intermediate can be trapped and studied at cryogenic temperatures. Several models (e.g. the bicycle-pedal mechanism, hula-twist mechanism) attempt to explain how the retinal group can change its conformation without clashing with the enveloping rhodopsin protein pocket .

Rhodopsin and retinal disease

Mutation of the rhodopsin gene is a major contributor to various retinopathies such as retinitis pigmentosa. The disease-causing protein generally aggregates with ubiquitin in inclusion bodies, disrupts the intermediate filament network and impairs the ability of the cell to degrade non-functioning proteins which leads to photoreceptor apoptosis . Other mutations on rhodopsin lead to X-linked congenital stationary night blindness, mainly due to constitutive activation, when the mutations occur around the chromophore binding pocket of rhodopsin (Mendes et al., 2005). Several other pathological states relating to rhodopsin have been discovered including poor post-Golgi trafficking, dysregulative activation, rod outer segment instability and arrestin binding .

Microbial rhodopsins

Some prokaryotes express proton pumps called bacteriorhodopsin, proteorhodopsin, xanthorhodopsin to carry out phototrophy. Like rhodopsin, these contain retinal and have seven transmembrane alpha helices; however they are not coupled to a G protein. Bacterial halorhodopsin is a light-activated chloride pump.


Further reading

External links

rhodopsin in Catalan: Rodopsina
rhodopsin in Czech: Rodopsin
rhodopsin in Danish: Rhodopsin
rhodopsin in German: Rhodopsin
rhodopsin in Spanish: Rodopsina
rhodopsin in French: Rhodopsine
rhodopsin in Croatian: Rodopsin
rhodopsin in Italian: Rodopsina
rhodopsin in Hebrew: אופסין#.D7.A8.D7.95.D7.93.D7.95.D7.A4.D7.A1.D7.99.D7.9F
rhodopsin in Lithuanian: Rodopsinas
rhodopsin in Dutch: Rodopsine
rhodopsin in Japanese: ロドプシン
rhodopsin in Polish: Rodopsyna
rhodopsin in Portuguese: Rodopsina
rhodopsin in Russian: Родопсин
rhodopsin in Finnish: Rodopsiini
rhodopsin in Ukrainian: Родопсин
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