Confronting complexity: the interlink of phototransduction and retinoid metabolism in the vertebrate retina

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2001 Jul;20(4):469-529. doi: 10.1016/s1350-9462(01)00002-7.


Absorption of light by rhodopsin or cone pigments in photoreceptors triggers photoisomerization of their universal chromophore, 11-cis-retinal, to all-trans-retinal. This photoreaction is the initial step in phototransduction that ultimately leads to the sensation of vision. Currently, a great deal of effort is directed toward elucidating mechanisms that return photoreceptors to the dark-adapted state, and processes that restore rhodopsin and counterbalance the bleaching of rhodopsin. Most notably, enzymatic isomerization of all-trans-retinal to 11-cis-retinal, called the visual cycle (or more properly the retinoid cycle), is required for regeneration of these visual pigments. Regeneration begins in rods and cones when all-trans-retinal is reduced to all-trans-retinol. The process continues in adjacent retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE), where a complex set of reactions converts all-trans-retinol to 11-cis-retinal. Although remarkable progress has been made over the past decade in understanding the phototransduction cascade, our understanding of the retinoid cycle remains rudimentary. The aim of this review is to summarize recent developments in our current understanding of the retinoid cycle at the molecular level, and to examine the relevance of these reactions to phototransduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dark Adaptation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Retinoids / metabolism*
  • Rhodopsin / physiology
  • Rhodopsin / radiation effects
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*


  • Retinoids
  • Rhodopsin