Rhodopsin phosphorylation: 30 years later

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2003 Jul;22(4):417-34. doi: 10.1016/s1350-9462(03)00017-x.


Phototransduction in vertebrate photoreceptor cells mediated by rhodopsin is one of the most comprehensively examined G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling pathways. The signal transduction pathway can be mapped from the initial absorption of light to conformational changes within rhodopsin, through activation of the G protein transducin, and to the ultimate closure of the cation cGMP-gated channels in the plasma membrane. Furthermore, phototransduction has become an intensely studied model system for understanding the desensitizing processes that allow reduced non-linear responses of photoreceptor cells to increasing levels of illumination. Although some general themes appear to occur in GPCR systems, the details of these desensitizing processes are likely to be specific to each of the receptors. These differences are attributed to the fact that each receptor has unique kinetic constraints, amplification levels, tolerance to basal constitutive activity, intracellular internalization and recycling, redundancy of isoforms, and morphologies of the cell of their expression. One of the biochemical processes that are believed to be a common part of this desensitization of the GPCR-mediated cascade is receptor phosphorylation catalyzed by members of a small family of the GPCR kinases. The enzymatic, physiological and genetic aspects of rhodopsin phosphorylation and rhodopsin kinase have been characterized extensively over the last 30 yr. However, new structurally based approaches to examining rhodopsin kinase and rhodopsin phosphorylation are still awaiting further investigations. We present here a summary of the current understanding of rhodopsin phosphorylation and the properties of rhodopsin kinase, along with some expectations of future investigations into these topics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Phosphorylation
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / metabolism
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Rhodopsin / history
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism*
  • Vision, Ocular


  • Rhodopsin
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases