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Eur J Biochem. 2000 Oct;267(19):5879-90.

On the kinetics of voltage formation in purple membranes of Halobacterium salinarium.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The kinetics of the bacteriorhodopsin photocycle, measured by voltage changes in a closed membrane system using the direct electrometrical method (DEM) of Drachev, L.A., Jasaitus, A.A., Kaulen, A.D., Kondrashin, A.A., Liberman, E.A., Nemecek, I.B., Ostroumov, S.A., Semenov, Yu, A. & Skulachev, V.P. (1974) Nature 249, 321-324 are sixfold slower than the kinetics obtained in optical studies with suspensions of purple membrane patches. In this study, we have investigated the reasons for this discrepancy. In the presence of the uncouplers carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone or valinomycin, the rates in the DEM system are similar to the rates in suspensions of purple membrane. Two alternative explanations for the effects of uncouplers were evaluated: (a) the 'back-pressure' of the Deltamicro;H+ slows the kinetic steps leading to its formation, and (b) the apparent difference between the two systems is due to slow major electrogenic events that produce little or no change in optical absorbance. In the latter case, the uncouplers would decrease the RC time constant for membrane capacitance leading to a quicker discharge of voltage and concomitant decrease in photocycle turnover time. The experimental results show that the primary cause for the slower kinetics of voltage changes in the DEM system is thermodynamic back-pressure as described by Westerhoff, H.V. & Dancshazy, Z. (1984) Trends Biochem. Sci. 9, 112-117.

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