Interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein--an old gene for new eyes

Vision Res. 2003 Dec;43(28):3021-36. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2003.09.019.


Evolving 40 times independently, eyes are striking examples of convergent evolution in that 11-cis retinaldehyde is always used for photon capture, yet the mechanism for its regeneration may be dramatically different in between systems. In particular, insects, cephalopods and vertebrates show varying physical separation of the cis-->trans photoisomerization and chromphore reisomerization. In the vertebrate retina, these two processes are actually distributed between different cells. This compartmentalization is made possible by the phylogenetic innovation of the two-layered optic cup of the vertebrate retina. This unprecedented design created the subretinal space as a novel anatomical compartment allowing photoreceptors access to the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and Müller cells, the two cell types which share the burden of 11-cis retinoid regeneration. To take advantage of this arrangement, early vertebrates appear to have recruited for retinoid binding, the betabetaalpha-spiral fold proven useful in enoyl-CoA isomerase/hydratases, and the carboxy-terminal proteases for stabilizing hydrophobic ligands. Quadruplication of this functional domain within a single polypeptide lead to the emergence of interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP). IRBP is the main soluble component of the IPM, and is prevented from diffusing out of the subretinal space because its large size excludes it from the photoreceptor/Müller cell zonulae adheretes. Despite this physical entrapment, IRBP is rapidly turned over within the IPM through a process that coordinates secretion of the protein by the photoreceptors, and its removal from the matrix by RPE and photoreceptor endocytosis. The present review will summarize what is known about the structure and function of IRBP to anticipate future avenues of research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Eye Proteins*
  • Invertebrates / anatomy & histology*
  • Invertebrates / physiology
  • Ligands
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Transport
  • Retina / anatomy & histology*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Retinaldehyde / metabolism
  • Retinoids / metabolism*
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Vertebrates / anatomy & histology*
  • Vertebrates / physiology


  • Eye Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Retinoids
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins
  • interstitial retinol-binding protein
  • Retinaldehyde