Constitutively active rhodopsin and retinal disease

Adv Pharmacol. 2014;70:1-36. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-417197-8.00001-8.


Rhodopsin is the light receptor in rod photoreceptor cells of the retina that initiates scotopic vision. In the dark, rhodopsin is bound to the chromophore 11-cis retinal, which locks the receptor in an inactive state. The maintenance of an inactive rhodopsin in the dark is critical for rod photoreceptor cells to remain highly sensitive. Perturbations by mutation or the absence of 11-cis retinal can cause rhodopsin to become constitutively active, which leads to the desensitization of photoreceptor cells and, in some instances, retinal degeneration. Constitutive activity can arise in rhodopsin by various mechanisms and can cause a variety of inherited retinal diseases including Leber congenital amaurosis, congenital night blindness, and retinitis pigmentosa. In this review, the molecular and structural properties of different constitutively active forms of rhodopsin are overviewed, and the possibility that constitutive activity can arise from different active-state conformations is discussed.

Keywords: Biased agonism; Functional selectivity; G protein-coupled receptor; Night blindness; Phototransduction; Protein conformation; Receptor activation; Retinal degeneration; Signal transduction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Retinal Diseases / genetics
  • Retinal Diseases / metabolism*
  • Rhodopsin / chemistry
  • Rhodopsin / genetics*
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism*


  • Rhodopsin