Biophysical Reviews

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 861–876 | Cite as

Conversion of microbial rhodopsins: insights into functionally essential elements and rational protein engineering

  • Akimasa Kaneko
  • Keiichi Inoue
  • Keiichi Kojima
  • Hideki Kandori
  • Yuki SudoEmail author


Technological progress has enabled the successful application of functional conversion to a variety of biological molecules, such as nucleotides and proteins. Such studies have revealed the functionally essential elements of these engineered molecules, which are difficult to characterize at the level of an individual molecule. The functional conversion of biological molecules has also provided a strategy for their rational and atomistic design. The engineered molecules can be used in studies to improve our understanding of their biological functions and to develop protein-based tools. In this review, we introduce the functional conversion of membrane-embedded photoreceptive retinylidene proteins (also called rhodopsins) and discuss these proteins mainly on the basis of results obtained from our own studies. This information provides insights into the molecular mechanism of light-induced protein functions and their use in optogenetics, a technology which involves the use of light to control biological activities.


Rhodopsin Energy conversion Signal transduction Membrane protein Retinal 



Our original publications were supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, Sports and Cultures (KAKENHI) to KI, HK and YS. This work was also supported by JST-CREST and AMED to YS. We thank “DASS Manuscript” ( for the English language review.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Akimasa Kaneko declares that he has no conflict of interest. Keiichi Inoue declares that he has no conflict of interest. Keiichi Kojima declares that he has no conflict of interest. Hideki Kandori declares that he has no conflict of interest. Yuki Sudo declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Pharmaceutical SciencesOkayama UniversityOkayamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Frontier MaterialsNagoya Institute of TechnologyNagoyaJapan
  3. 3.OptoBioTechnology Research CenterNagoya Institute of TechnologyNagoyaJapan
  4. 4.Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology (PRESTO)Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)SaitamaJapan
  5. 5.Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical SciencesOkayama UniversityOkayamaJapan

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