* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received May 10, 2001; Revision received July 22, 2001
Green flagellate algae are capable of the active adjustment of their swimming path according to the light direction (phototaxis). This direction is detected by a special photoreceptor apparatus consisting of the photoreceptor membrane and eyespot. Receptor photoexcitation in green flagellates triggers a cascade of rapid electrical events in the cell membrane which plays a crucial role in the signal transduction chain of phototaxis and the photophobic response. The photoreceptor current is the earliest so far detectable process in this cascade. Measurement of the photoreceptor current is at present the most suitable approach to investigation of the photoreceptor pigment in green flagellate algae, since a low receptor concentration in the cell makes application of optical and biochemical methods so far impossible. A set of physiological evidences shows that the phototaxis receptor in green flagellate algae is a unique rhodopsin-type protein. It shares common chromophore properties with retinal proteins from archaea. However, the involvement of photoelectric processes in the signal transduction chain relates it to animal visual rhodopsins. The presence of some enzymatic components of the animal visual cascade in isolated eyespot preparations might also point to this relation. A retinal-binding protein has been identified in such preparations, the amino acid sequence of which shows a certain homology to sequences of animal visual rhodopsins. However, potential function of this protein as the phototaxis receptor has been questioned in recent time.
KEY WORDS: phototaxis, photoreceptor, rhodopsin, signal transduction, photoreceptor current, photoelectric processes, green flagellate algae, Chlamydomonas, Haematococcus