Physiological studies of the interaction between opsin and chromophore in rod and cone visual pigments

Vladimir J. Kefalov, M. Carter Cornwall, Gordon L. Fain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The visual pigment in vertebrate photoreceptors is a G protein-coupled receptor that consists of a protein, opsin, covalently attached to a chromophore, 11-cis-retinal. Activation of the visual pigment by light triggers a transduction cascade that produces experimentally measurable electrical responses in photoreceptors. The interactions between opsin and chromophore can be investigated with electrophysiologial recordings in intact amphibian and mouse rod and cone photoreceptor cells. Here we describe methods for substituting the native chromophore with various chromophore analogs to investigate how specific parts of the chromophore affect the signaling properties of the visual pigment and the function of photoreceptors. We also describe methods for genetically substituting the native rod opsin gene with cone opsins or with mutant rod opsins to investigate and compare their signaling properties. These methods are useful not only for understanding the relation between the properties of visual pigments and the function of photoreceptors but also for understanding the mechanisms by which mutations in rod opsin produce night blindness and other visual disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRetinoids
Subtitle of host publicationMethods and Protocols
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2010

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology
ISSN (Print)1064-3745


  • Opsin, chromophore
  • dark adaptation
  • photoreceptor
  • phototransducion
  • rhodopsin mutation
  • transgenic pigment
  • visual pigment


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