Microbial Rhodopsins

Methods Mol Biol. 2022;2501:1-52. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2329-9_1.


The first microbial rhodopsin, a light-driven proton pump bacteriorhodopsin from Halobacterium salinarum (HsBR), was discovered in 1971. Since then, this seven-α-helical protein, comprising a retinal molecule as a cofactor, became a major driver of groundbreaking developments in membrane protein research. However, until 1999 only a few archaeal rhodopsins, acting as light-driven proton and chloride pumps and also photosensors, were known. A new microbial rhodopsin era started in 2000 when the first bacterial rhodopsin, a proton pump, was discovered. Later it became clear that there are unexpectedly many rhodopsins, and they are present in all the domains of life and even in viruses. It turned out that they execute such a diversity of functions while being "nearly the same." The incredible evolution of the research area of rhodopsins and the scientific and technological potential of the proteins is described in the review with a focus on their function-structure relationships.

Keywords: Ion transport; Membrane protein; Optogenetics; Retinal; Rhodopsin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriorhodopsins* / chemistry
  • Ion Transport
  • Light
  • Proton Pumps / metabolism
  • Rhodopsin / chemistry
  • Rhodopsins, Microbial* / chemistry


  • Proton Pumps
  • Rhodopsins, Microbial
  • Bacteriorhodopsins
  • Rhodopsin