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Genome Biol. 2005;6(3):213. Epub 2005 Mar 1.

The opsins.

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  • 1Department of Biophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University and Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST), Japan Science and Technology Agency, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


The photosensitive molecule rhodopsin and its relatives consist of a protein moiety - an opsin - and a non-protein moiety - the chromophore retinal. Opsins, which are G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), are found in animals, and more than a thousand have been identified so far. Detailed molecular phylogenetic analyses show that the opsin family is divided into seven subfamilies, which correspond well to functional classifications within the family: the vertebrate visual (transducin-coupled) and non-visual opsin subfamily, the encephalopsin/tmt-opsin subfamily, the Gq-coupled opsin/melanopsin subfamily, the Go-coupled opsin subfamily, the neuropsin subfamily, the peropsin subfamily and the retinal photoisomerase subfamily. The subfamilies diversified before the deuterostomes (including vertebrates) split from the protostomes (most invertebrates), suggesting that a common animal ancestor had multiple opsin genes. Opsins have a seven-transmembrane structure similar to that of other GPCRs, but are distinguished by a lysine residue that is a retinal-binding site in the seventh helix. Accumulated evidence suggests that most opsins act as pigments that activate G proteins in a light-dependent manner in both visual and non-visual systems, whereas a few serve as retinal photoisomerases, generating the chromophore used by other opsins, and some opsins have unknown functions.

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