Photic generation of 11-cis-retinal in bovine retinal pigment epithelium

Jianye Zhang, Elliot H. Choi, Aleksander Tworak, David Salom, Henri Leinonen, Christopher L. Sander, Thanh V. Hoang, James T. Handa, X. Seth Blackshaw, Grazyna Palczewska, Philip D. Kiser, X. Krzysztof Palczewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Photoisomerization of the 11-cis-retinal chromophore of rod and cone visual pigments to an all-trans-configuration is the initiating event for vision in vertebrates. The regeneration of 11-cis-retinal, necessary for sustained visual function, is an endergonic process normally conducted by specialized enzyme systems. However, 11-cis-retinal also can be formed through reverse photoisomerization from all-trans-retinal. A nonvisual opsin known as retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)-retinal G-protein- coupled receptor (RGR) was previously shown to mediate visual chromophore regeneration in photic conditions, but conflicting results have cast doubt on its role as a photoisomerase. Here, we describe high-level production of 11-cis-ret-inal from RPE membranes stimulated by illumination at a narrow band of wavelengths. This activity was associated with RGR and enhanced by cellular retinaldehyde-binding protein (CRALBP), which binds the 11-cis-retinal produced by RGR and prevents its re-isomerization to all-trans-retinal. The activity was recapitulated with cells heterologously expressing RGR and with purified recombinant RGR. Using an RGR variant, K255A, we confirmed that a Schiff base linkage at Lys-255 is critical for substrate binding and isomerization. Single-cell RNA-Seq analysis of the retina and RPE tissue confirmed that RGR is expressed in human and bovine RPE and Müller glia, whereas mouse RGR is expressed in RPE but not in Müller glia. These results provide key insights into the mechanisms of physiological retinoid photoisomerization and suggest a novel mechanism by which RGR, in concert with CRALBP, regenerates the visual chromophore in the RPE under sustained light conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19137-19154
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 13 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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