Isomerization and oxidation of vitamin a in cone-dominant retinas: a novel pathway for visual-pigment regeneration in daylight

Neuron. 2002 Sep 26;36(1):69-80. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00912-1.


The first step toward light perception is 11-cis to all-trans photoisomerization of the retinaldehyde chromophore in a rod or cone opsin-pigment molecule. Light sensitivity of the opsin pigment is restored through a multistep pathway called the visual cycle, which effects all-trans to 11-cis re-isomerization of the retinoid chromophore. The maximum throughput of the known visual cycle, however, is too slow to explain sustained photosensitivity in bright light. Here, we demonstrate three novel enzymatic activities in cone-dominant ground-squirrel and chicken retinas: an all-trans-retinol isomerase, an 11-cis-retinyl-ester synthase, and an 11-cis-retinol dehydrogenase. Together these activities comprise a novel pathway that regenerates opsin photopigments at a rate 20-fold faster than the known visual cycle. We suggest that this pathway is responsible for sustained daylight vision in vertebrates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chickens
  • Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Isomerases / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Palmitoyl Coenzyme A / metabolism
  • Peptide Synthases / isolation & purification
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Pigments / biosynthesis*
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinaldehyde / metabolism
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Retinyl Esters
  • Sciuridae
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Vitamin A / metabolism*


  • Lipoproteins
  • Retinal Pigments
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins
  • Retinyl Esters
  • retinyl ester lipoprotein complex
  • Vitamin A
  • Palmitoyl Coenzyme A
  • Hydrolases
  • Isomerases
  • Peptide Synthases
  • Retinaldehyde