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Blue light regenerates functional visual pigments in mammals through a retinyl-phospholipid intermediate


The light absorbing chromophore in opsin visual pigments is the protonated Schiff base of 11-cis-retinaldehyde (11cRAL). Absorption of a photon isomerizes 11cRAL to all-trans-retinaldehyde (atRAL), briefly activating the pigment before it dissociates. Light sensitivity is restored when apo-opsin combines with another 11cRAL to form a new visual pigment. Conversion of atRAL to 11cRAL is carried out by enzyme pathways in neighboring cells. Here we show that blue (450-nm) light converts atRAL specifically to 11cRAL through a retinyl-phospholipid intermediate in photoreceptor membranes. The quantum efficiency of this photoconversion is similar to rhodopsin. Photoreceptor membranes synthesize 11cRAL chromophore faster under blue light than in darkness. Live mice regenerate rhodopsin more rapidly in blue light. Finally, whole retinas and isolated cone cells show increased photosensitivity following exposure to blue light. These results indicate that light contributes to visual-pigment renewal in mammalian rods and cones through a non-enzymatic process involving retinyl-phospholipids.It is currently thought that visual pigments in vertebrate photoreceptors are regenerated exclusively through enzymatic cycles. Here the authors show that mammalian photoreceptors also regenerate opsin pigments in light through photoisomerization of N-ret-PE (N-retinylidene-phosphatidylethanolamine.

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