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Acts as all-trans-retinaldehyde reductase. Can efficiently reduce aliphatic and aromatic aldehydes, and is less active on hexoses (in vitro). May be responsible for detoxification of reactive aldehydes in the digested food before the nutrients are passed on to other organs.
Absorption of light changes the conformation of 11-cis-retinal into all-transretinal. Photoreceptors lack cis-trans isomerase and, therefore, all-trans-retinal is metabolized into all-trans-retinol and transported to the RPE. In the RPE retinol is reisomerized by means of cis-trans isomerase to 11-cis-retinal and then redelivered to the photoreceptors. The protein RPE65 (retinal pigment epithelium-specific protein 65 kDa) is the protein responsible for isomerization of the all-trans-retinaldehyde.