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Photopigments are unstable pigments that undergo a physical or chemical change in the presence of light. The term is generally applied to the non-protein chromophore moiety of photosensitive chromoproteins, such as the pigments involved in photosynthesis and photoreception. In medical terminology, "photopigment" commonly refers to the photoreceptor proteins of the retina.
- Main article: Photoreceptor protein
The pigments in photoreceptor proteins either change their conformation or undergo photoreduction when they absorb a photon. This change in the conformation or redox state of the chromophore then affects the protein conformation or activity and triggers a signal transduction cascade. Examples for photoreceptor pigments include retinal (for example in rhodopsin), flavin (for example in cryptochrome), and bilin (for example in phytochrome).
Photopigments of the vertebrate retina
- Main article: Opsin
In medical terminology, the term photopigment is applied to opsin-type photoreceptor proteins, specifically rhodopsin and photopsins, the photoreceptor proteins in the retinal rods and cones of vertebrates that are responsible for visual perception, but also melanopsin and others.
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