The cyclic nucleotides cAMP and cGMP are ubiquitous secondary messengers that regulate multiple biological functions including gene expression, differentiation, proliferation, and cell survival. In sensory neurons, cyclic nucleotides are responsible for signal modulation, amplification, and encoding. For spatial and temporal manipulation of cyclic nucleotide dynamics, optogenetics have a great advantage over pharmacological approaches. Enzymerhodopsins are a unique family of microbial rhodopsins. These molecules are made up of a membrane-embedded rhodopsin domain, which binds an all trans-retinal to form a chromophore, and a cytoplasmic water-soluble catalytic domain. To date, three kinds of molecules have been identified from lower eukaryotes such as fungi, algae, and flagellates. Among these, histidine kinase rhodopsin (HKR) is a light-inhibited guanylyl cyclase. Rhodopsin GC (Rh-GC) functions as a light-activated guanylyl cyclase, while rhodopsin PDE (Rh-PDE) functions as a light-activated phosphodiesterase that degrades cAMP and cGMP. These enzymerhodopsins have great potential in optogenetic applications for manipulating the intracellular cyclic nucleotide dynamics of living cells. Here we introduce the molecular function and applicability of these molecules.
Keywords: Cyclic nucleotide; Guanylate cyclase; Microbial rhodopsin; Phosphodiesterase; Signal transduction.