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Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2010 Nov;9(11):1426-34. doi: 10.1039/c0pp00134a. Epub 2010 Sep 14.

Multiple functions of Schiff base counterion in rhodopsins.

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Department of Biophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto, 606-8502, Japan.


In rhodopsins, visible-light absorption is achieved by the protonation of the chromophore Schiff base. The Schiff base proton is stabilized by the negative charge of an amino acid residue called the Schiff base counterion. Since E113 was identified as the counterion in bovine rhodopsin, there has been growing evidence that the counterion has multiple functions besides proton stabilization. Here, we first introduce generally accepted findings as well as some controversial theories about the identity of the Schiff base counterion in the dark and in intermediate states and then review multiple functions of the counterion in vertebrate visual pigments. Special focus is placed on the recently demonstrated role in photoisomerization efficiency. Finally, differences in the position of the counterion between vertebrate visual pigments and other opsins and its relevance to the molecular evolution of opsins are discussed.

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