Crystal structure of the ligand-free G-protein-coupled receptor opsin

Nature. 2008 Jul 10;454(7201):183-7. doi: 10.1038/nature07063. Epub 2008 Jun 18.


In the G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) rhodopsin, the inactivating ligand 11-cis-retinal is bound in the seven-transmembrane helix (TM) bundle and is cis/trans isomerized by light to form active metarhodopsin II. With metarhodopsin II decay, all-trans-retinal is released, and opsin is reloaded with new 11-cis-retinal. Here we present the crystal structure of ligand-free native opsin from bovine retinal rod cells at 2.9 ångström (A) resolution. Compared to rhodopsin, opsin shows prominent structural changes in the conserved E(D)RY and NPxxY(x)(5,6)F regions and in TM5-TM7. At the cytoplasmic side, TM6 is tilted outwards by 6-7 A, whereas the helix structure of TM5 is more elongated and close to TM6. These structural changes, some of which were attributed to an active GPCR state, reorganize the empty retinal-binding pocket to disclose two openings that may serve the entry and exit of retinal. The opsin structure sheds new light on ligand binding to GPCRs and on GPCR activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cattle
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Folding
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / chemistry*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / chemistry
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinaldehyde / chemistry
  • Retinaldehyde / metabolism
  • Rhodopsin / chemistry
  • Rod Opsins / chemistry*
  • Rod Opsins / metabolism


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Rod Opsins
  • Rhodopsin
  • Retinaldehyde

Associated data

  • PDB/1GZM
  • PDB/1HZX
  • PDB/1U19
  • PDB/3CAP