Global abundance of microbial rhodopsins

Omri M. Finkel, Oded Béjà, Shimshon Belkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Photochemical reaction centers and rhodopsins are the only phototrophic mechanisms known to have evolved on Earth. The minimal cost of bearing a rhodopsin-based phototrophic mechanism in comparison to maintaining a photochemical reaction center suggests that rhodopsin is the more abundant of the two. We tested this hypothesis by conducting a global abundance calculation of phototrophic mechanisms from 116 marine and terrestrial microbial metagenomes. On average, 48% of the cells from which these metagenomes were generated harbored a rhodopsin gene, exceeding the reaction center abundance by threefold. Evidence from metatranscriptomic data suggests that this genomic potential is realized to a substantial extent, at least for the small-sized (>0.8 μm) of microbial fractions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)448-451
Number of pages4
JournalISME Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • metagenomics
  • phototrophy
  • rhodopsin


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