The choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta contains a chimeric rhodopsin protein composed of an N-terminal rhodopsin (Rh) domain and a C-terminal cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase (PDE) domain. The Rh-PDE enzyme light-dependently decreases the concentrations of cyclic nucleotides such as cGMP and cAMP. Photoexcitation of purified full-length Rh-PDE yields an “M” intermediate with a deprotonated Schiff base, and its recovery is much faster than that of the enzyme domain. To gain structural and mechanistic insights into the Rh domain, here we expressed and purified the transmembrane domain of Rh-PDE, Rh-PDE(TMD), and analyzed it with transient absorption, light-induced difference UV-visible, and FTIR spectroscopy methods. These analyses revealed that the “K” intermediate forms within 0.005 ms and converts into the M intermediate with a time constant of 4 ms, with the latter returning to the original state within 4 s. FTIR spectroscopy revealed that all-trans to 13-cis photoisomerization occurs as the primary event during which chromophore distortion is located at the middle of the polyene chain, allowing the Schiff base to form a stronger hydrogen bond. We also noted that the peptide backbone of the -helix becomes deformed upon M intermediate formation. Results from site-directed mutagenesis suggested that Glu-164 is protonated and that Asp-292 acts as the only Schiff base counterion in Rh-PDE. A strong reduction of enzymatic activity in a D292N variant, but not in an E164Q variant, indicated an important catalytic role of the negative charge at Asp-292. Our findings provide further mechanistic insights into rhodopsin-mediated, light-dependent regulation of second-messenger levels in eukaryotic microbes.