A Perspective on the Potential of Opsins as an Integral Mechanism of Photobiomodulation: It's Not Just the Eyes

Ann Liebert, Vincent Pang, Brian Bicknell, Craig McLachlan, John Mitrofanis, Hosen Kiat

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To investigate the potential relationship between opsins and photobiomodulation. Background: Opsins and other photoreceptors occur in all phyla and are important in light-activated signaling and organism homeostasis. In addition to the visual opsin systems of the retina (OPN1 and OPN2), there are several non-visual opsins found throughout the body tissues, including encephalopsin/panopsin (OPN3), melanopsin (OPN4), and neuropsin (OPN5), as well as other structures that have light-sensitive properties, such as enzymes, ion channels, particularly those located in cell membranes, lysosomes, and neuronal structures such as the nodes of Ranvier. The influence of these structures on exposure to light, including self-generated light within the body (autofluorescence), on circadian oscillators, and circadian and ultradian rhythms have become increasingly reported. The visual and non-visual phototransduction cascade originating from opsins and other structures has potential significant mechanistic effects on tissues and health. Methods: A PubMed and Google Scholar search was made using the search terms "photobiomodulation", "light", "neuron", "opsins", "neuropsin", "melanopsin", "encephalopsin", "rhodopsin", and "chromophore". Results: This review was examined the influence of neuropsin (also known as kallikrein 8), encephalopsin, and melanopsin specifically on ion channel function, and more broadly on the central and peripheral nervous systems. The relationship between opsins 3, 4, and 5 and photobiomodulation mechanisms was evaluated, along with a proposed role of photobiomodulation through opsins and light-sensitive organelles as potential alleviators of symptoms and accelerators of beneficial regenerative processes. The potential clinical implications of this in musculoskeletal conditions, wounds, and in the symptomatic management of neurodegenerative disease was also examined. Conclusions: Systematic research into the pleotropic therapeutic role of photobiomodulation, mediated through its action on opsins and other light-sensitive organelles may assist in the future execution of safe, low-risk precision medicine for a variety of chronic and complex disease conditions, and for health maintenance in aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-135
Number of pages13
JournalPhotobiomodulation, photomedicine, and laser surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • chromophores
  • encephalopsin
  • melanopsin
  • neuropsin
  • non-visual
  • opsins
  • photobiomodulation


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