G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are involved in a vast variety of cellular signal transduction processes from visual, taste and odor perceptions to sensing the levels of many hormones and neurotransmitters. As a result of agonist-induced conformation changes, GPCRs become activated and catalyze nucleotide exchange within the G proteins, thus detecting and amplifying the signal. GPCRs share a common heptahelical transmembrane structure as well as many conserved key residues and regions. Rhodopsins are prototypical GPCRs that detect photons in retinal photoreceptor cells and trigger a phototransduction cascade that culminates in neuronal signaling. Biophysical and biochemical studies of rhodopsin activation, and the recent crystal structure determination of bovine rhodopsin, have provided new information that enables a more complete mechanism of vertebrate rhodopsin activation to be proposed. In many aspects, rhodopsin might provide a structural and functional template for other members of the GPCR family.