Photoreceptor processes: some problems and perspectives

The Journal of Experimental Zoology
T H Goldsmith


Visual photoreceptors from both vertebrates and invertebrates are characterized by extensive elaboration of membrane which contains visual pigment (rhodopsin). Visual pigments in all phyla examined are chemically similar: the chromophore is 11-cis retinaldehyde attached by an aldimine linkage (Schiff base) to a membrane protein, opsin. The effect of light is to isomerize the chromophore to the all-trans configuration. Beyond these fundamental similarities, several specific areas are discussed in which variations and differences appear. (1) Light causes vertebrate visual pigments to bleach, liberating the chromophore. Most invertebrate visual pigments do not bleach in the light, but instead form a thermally stable metarhodopsin, with the chromophore in the all-trans configuration still attached to the opsin. (2) In the disk membranes of vertebrate rod and cone outer segments, the rhodopsin molecules are oriented with their chromophores nearly coplanar with the disks. Within this plane, however, both rotational and translational diffusion are possible. In the microvillar membranes of arthropod and cephalopod rhabdoms, on the other hand, the situation is less clear. There is evidence for some preferential orientation of chromophor...Continue Reading


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