Spectral sensitivity, structure and activation of eukaryotic rhodopsins: Activation spectroscopy of rhodopsin analogs in Chlamydomonas

Kenneth W. Foster, Jureepan Saranak, Peter A. Dowben

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Retinal normally binds opsin forming the chromophore of the visual pigment, rhodopsin. In this investigation synthetic analogs were bound by the opsin of living cells of the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii; the effect was assayed by phototaxis to give an activation spectrum for each rhodopsin analog. The results show the influence of different chromophores and the protein on the absorption of light. The maxima of the phototaxis action spectra shifted systematically with the number of double bonds conjugated with the imine (CN+H) bond of the chromophore. Chromophores lacking a β-ionone ring, methyl groups and all CC double bonds photoactivated the rhodopsin of Chlamydomonas with normal efficiency. On the basis of a simple model involving one-electron transitions between occupied and virtual molecular orbitals, we estimate the charge distribution along the chromophore in the binding site. With this restraint we define a unique structural model for eukaryotic rhodopsins and explain the spectral clustering of pigments, the spectral differences between red and green rhodopsins and the molecular basis of color blindness. Our results are consistent with the triggering of the activation of rhodopsin by the light-mediated change in electric dipole moment rather than the steric cis-trans isomerization of the chromophore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-408
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, B: Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991



  • action spectra
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
  • Rhodopsin activation
  • spectral sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Bioengineering
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

Cite this