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Abstract

Vision begins when light is absorbed by visual pigments. It is commonly believed that the absorption spectra of visual pigments are modulated by interactions between the retinal and amino acids within or near 4.5 Å of the retinal in the transmembrane (TM) segments. However, this dogma has not been rigorously tested. In this study, we show that the retinal-opsin interactions extend well beyond the retinal binding pocket. We found that, although it is positioned outside of TM segments, the C-terminus of the rhodopsin in the rockfish longspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus altivelis) modulates its λmax by interacting mainly with the last TM segment. Our results illustrate how amino acids in the C-terminus are likely to interact with the retinal. We anticipate our analyses to be a starting point for viewing the spectral tuning of visual pigments as interactions between the retinal and key amino acids that are distributed throughout the entire pigment.