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J Gen Physiol. 1935 November 20; 19(2): 351–371.
PMCID: PMC2141433

CAROTENOIDS AND THE VISUAL CYCLE

Abstract

1. Carotenoids have been identified and their quantities measured in the eyes of several frog species. The combined pigment epithelium and choroid layer of an R. pipiens or esculenta eye contain about 1γ of xanthophyll and about 4γ of vitamin A. During light adaptation the xanthophyll content falls 10 to 20 per cent. 2. Light adapted retinas contain about 0.2–0.3 γ of vitamin A alone. 3. Dark adapted retinas contain only a trace of vitamin A. The destruction of their visual purple with chloroform liberates a hitherto undescribed carotenoid, retinene. The bleaching of visual purple to visual yellow by light also liberates retinene. Free retinene is removed from the isolated retina by two thermal processes: reversion to visual purple and decomposition to colorless products, including vitamin A. This is the source of the vitamin A of the light adapted retina. 4. Isolated retinas which have been bleached and allowed to fade completely contain several times as much vitamin A as retinas from light adapted animals. The visual purple system therefore expends vitamin A and is dependent upon the diet for its replacement. 5. Visual purple behaves as a conjugated protein in which retinene is the prosthetic group. 6. Vitamin A is the precursor of visual purple as well as the product of its decomposition. The visual processes therefore constitute a cycle.

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