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Protein family review

The opsins

Akihisa Terakita

Author Affiliations

Department 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

Genome Biology 2005, 6:213  doi:10.1186/gb-2005-6-3-213

Published: 1 March 2005

Abstract

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.