Rhodopsin is the classical light sensor. Although rhodopsin has long been known to be important for image formation in the eye, the requirements for opsins in non–image formation and in extraocular light sensation were revealed much later. Most recent is the demonstration that an opsin in the fruit fly, , is expressed in pacemaker neurons in the brain and functions in light entrainment of circadian rhythms. However, the biggest surprise is that opsins have light-independent roles, countering more than a century of dogma that they function exclusively as light sensors. Through studies in , light-independent roles of opsins have emerged in temperature sensation and hearing. Although these findings have been uncovered in the fruit fly, there are hints that opsins have light-independent roles in a wide array of animals, including mammals. Thus, despite the decades of focus on opsins as light detectors, they represent an important new class of polymodal sensory receptor.


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