The visual cycle operates via an isomerase acting on all-trans retinol in the pigment epithelium

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  26 Jun 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4809, pp. 1678-1680
DOI: 10.1126/science.3603006


Thirty years have elapsed since Wald and his colleagues showed that 11-cis retinal was isomerized to all-trans when rhodopsin was bleached, yet little has been understood about the reverse process that generates 11-cis retinal for rhodopsin regeneration. It is not known whether the isomerization is enzyme-mediated, whether it occurs in the pigment epithelium or in the retina, or whether retinal, retinol, or a retinyl ester is the vitamin A compound that is isomerized. Radiolabeled all-trans retinol and high-performance liquid chromatography have now been used to demonstrate the existence of an eye-specific, membrane-bound enzyme (retinol isomerase) that converts all-trans to 11-cis retinol in the dark. Retinol isomerase is concentrated in the pigment epithelium; this localization clarifies the role of this tissue in rhodopsin regeneration and explains the need to transfer all-trans retinol from the rod outer segments to the pigment epithelium during the visual cycle.