Key enzymes of the retinoid (visual) cycle in vertebrate retina

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Jan;1821(1):137-51. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


A major goal in vision research over the past few decades has been to understand the molecular details of retinoid processing within the retinoid (visual) cycle. This includes the consequences of side reactions that result from delayed all-trans-retinal clearance and condensation with phospholipids that characterize a variety of serious retinal diseases. Knowledge of the basic retinoid biochemistry involved in these diseases is essential for development of effective therapeutics. Photoisomerization of the 11-cis-retinal chromophore of rhodopsin triggers a complex set of metabolic transformations collectively termed phototransduction that ultimately lead to light perception. Continuity of vision depends on continuous conversion of all-trans-retinal back to the 11-cis-retinal isomer. This process takes place in a series of reactions known as the retinoid cycle, which occur in photoreceptor and RPE cells. All-trans-retinal, the initial substrate of this cycle, is a chemically reactive aldehyde that can form toxic conjugates with proteins and lipids. Therefore, much experimental effort has been devoted to elucidate molecular mechanisms of the retinoid cycle and all-trans-retinal-mediated retinal degeneration, resulting in delineation of many key steps involved in regenerating 11-cis-retinal. Three particularly important reactions are catalyzed by enzymes broadly classified as acyltransferases, short-chain dehydrogenases/reductases and carotenoid/retinoid isomerases/oxygenases. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Retinoid and Lipid Metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / genetics
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Retina / enzymology*
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Retinal Diseases / pathology
  • Retinaldehyde / metabolism
  • Retinoids / metabolism*
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • cis-trans-Isomerases / genetics
  • cis-trans-Isomerases / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Phospholipids
  • Retinoids
  • Rhodopsin
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases
  • retinol dehydrogenase
  • Acyltransferases
  • lecithin-retinol acyltransferase
  • retinoid isomerohydrolase
  • cis-trans-Isomerases
  • Retinaldehyde