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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jun 25;99(13):8689-94. Epub 2002 Jun 11.

Two rhodopsins mediate phototaxis to low- and high-intensity light in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Center for Membrane Biology, University of Texas Medical School, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


We demonstrate that two rhodopsins, identified from cDNA sequences, function as low- and high-light-intensity phototaxis receptors in the eukaryotic alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Each of the receptors consists of an approximately 300-residue seven-transmembrane helix domain with a retinal-binding pocket homologous to that of archaeal rhodopsins, followed by approximately 400 residues of additional membrane-associated portion. The function of the two rhodopsins, Chlamydomonas sensory rhodopsins A and B (CSRA and CSRB), as phototaxis receptors is demonstrated by in vivo analysis of photoreceptor electrical currents and motility responses in transformants with RNA interference (RNAi) directed against each of the rhodopsin genes. The kinetics, fluence dependencies, and action spectra of the photoreceptor currents differ greatly in transformants in accord with the relative amounts of photoreceptor pigments expressed. The data show that CSRA has an absorption maximum near 510 nm and mediates a fast photoreceptor current that saturates at high light intensity. In contrast, CSRB absorbs maximally at 470 nm and generates a slow photoreceptor current saturating at low light intensity. The relative wavelength dependence of CSRA and CSRB activity in producing phototaxis responses matches precisely the wavelength dependence of the CSRA- and CSRB-generated currents, demonstrating that each receptor mediates phototaxis. The saturation of the two photoreceptor currents at different light fluence levels extends the range of light intensity to which the organism can respond. Further, at intensities where both operate, their light signals are integrated at the level of membrane depolarization caused by the two photoreceptor currents.

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