Organisms sense and respond to environmental stimuli through membrane-embedded receptors and transducers. Sensory rhodopsin I (SRI) and sensory rhodopsin II (SRII) are the photoreceptors for the positive and negative phototaxis in microorganisms, respectively. They form signaling complexes in the membrane with their cognate transducer proteins, HtrI and HtrII, and these SRI-HtrI and SRII-HtrII complexes transmit a light signal through their cytoplasmic sensory signaling system, inducing opposite effects (i.e., the inactivation or activation of the kinase CheA). Here we found, by using Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy, that a conserved residue, Asp102 in Salinibacter SRI (SrSRI), which is located close to the β-ionone ring of the retinal chromophore, is deprotonated upon formation of the active M-intermediate. Furthermore, the D102E mutant of SrSRI affects the structure and/or structural changes of Cys130. This mutant shows a large spectral shift and is comparably unstable, especially in the absence of Cl-. These phenomena have not been observed in the wild-type, or the N105Q and N105D mutants of Natronomonas pharaonis SRII (NpSRII), indicating differences in the structure and structural changes between SrSRI and NpSRII around the β-ionone ring. These differences could also be supported by the measurements of the reactivity with the water-soluble reagent azide. On the basis of these results, we discuss the structure and structural changes around the retinal chromophore in SrSRI.
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