In nature, organisms are subjected to a variety of environmental stimuli to which they respond and adapt. They can show avoidance or attractive behaviors away from or toward such stimuli in order to survive in the various environments in which they live. One such stimuli is light, to which, for example, the receptor sensory rhodopsin I (SRI) has been found to respond by regulating both negative and positive phototaxis in, e.g., the archaeon Halobacterium salinarum. Interestingly, to date, all organisms having SRI-like proteins live in highly halophilic environments, suggesting that salt significantly influences the properties of SRIs. Taking advantage of the discovery of the highly stable SRI homologue from Salinibacter ruber (SrSRI), which maintains its color even in the absence of salt, the importance of the chloride ion for the color tuning and for the slow M-decay, which is thought to be essential for the phototaxis function of SRIs, has been reported previously [Suzuki, D., et al. (2009) J. Mol. Biol.392, 48-62]. Here the effects of the anion binding on the structure and structural changes of SRI during its photocycle are investigated by means of Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and electrochemical experiments. Our results reveal that, among other things, the structural change and proton movement of a characteristic amino acid residue, Asp102 in SrSRI, is suppressed by the binding of an anion in its vicinity, both in the K- and M-intermediate. The presence of this anion also effects the extent of chromophore distrotion, and tentative results indicate an influence on the number and/or properties of internal water molecules. In addition, a photoinduced proton transfer could only be observed in the absence of the bound anion. Possible proton movement pathways, including the residues Asp102 and the putative Cl binding site His131, are discussed. In conclusion, the results show that the anion binding to SRI is not only important for the color tuning, and for controlling the photocycle kinetics, but also induces some structural changes which facilitate the observed properties.
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