BACKGROUND: The fundamental role of the light receptor rhodopsin in visual function and photoreceptor cell development has been widely studied. Proper trafficking of rhodopsin to the photoreceptor membrane is of great importance. In human, mutations in rhodopsin involving its intracellular mislocalization, are the most frequent cause of autosomal dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal pathology characterized by progressive blindness. Drosophila is widely used as an animal model in visual and retinal degeneration research. So far, little is known about the requirements for proper rhodopsin targeting in Drosophila.<br /><br />METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Different truncated fly-rhodopsin Rh1 variants were expressed in the eyes of Drosophila and their localization was analyzed in vivo or by immunofluorescence. A mutant lacking the last 23 amino acids was found to properly localize in the rhabdomeres, the light-sensing organelle of the photoreceptor cells. This constitutes a major difference to trafficking in vertebrates, which involves a conserved QVxPA motif at the very C-terminus. Further truncations of Rh1 indicated that proper localization requires the last amino acid residues of a region called helix 8 following directly the last transmembrane domain. Interestingly, the very C-terminus of invertebrate visual rhodopsins is extremely variable but helix 8 shows conserved amino acid residues that are not conserved in vertebrate homologs.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Despite impressive similarities in the folding and photoactivation of vertebrate and invertebrate visual rhodopsins, a striking difference exists between mammalian and fly rhodopsins in their requirements for proper targeting. Most importantly, the distal part of helix 8 plays a central role in invertebrates. Since the last amino acid residues of helix 8 are dispensable for rhodopsin folding and function, we propose that this domain participates in the recognition of targeting factors involved in transport to the rhabdomeres.
Kock, I., Bulgakova, N. A., Knust, E., Sinning, I., & Panneels, V. (2009). Targeting of Drosophila rhodopsin requires helix 8 but not the distal C-terminus. PLoS ONE, 4(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0006101