Photoreceptor for curling behavior in peranema trichophorum and evolution of eukaryotic rhodopsins

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When it is gliding, the unicellular euglenoid Peranema trichophorum uses activation of the photoreceptor rhodopsin to control the probability of its curling behavior. From the curled state, the cell takes off in a new direction. In a similar manner, archaea such as Halobacterium use light activation of bacterio- and sensory rhodopsins to control the probability of reversal of the rotation direction of flagella. Each reversal causes the cell to change its direction. In neither case does the cell track light, as known for the rhodopsin-dependent eukaryotic phototaxis of fungi, green algae, cryptomonads, dinoflagellates, and animal larvae. Rhodopsin was identified in Peranema by its native action spectrum (peak at 2.43 eV or 510 nm) and by the shifted spectrum (peak at 3.73 eV or 332 nm) upon replacement of the native chromophore with the retinal analog n-hexenal. The in vivo physiological activity of n-hexenal incorporated to become a chromophore also demonstrates that charge redistribution of a short asymmetric chromophore is sufficient for receptor activation and that the following isomerization step is probably not required when the rest of the native chromophore is missing. This property seems universal among the Euglenozoa, Plant, and Fungus kingdom rhodopsins. The rhodopsins of animals have yet to be studied in this respect. The photoresponse appears to be mediated by Ca2+ influx.

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