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Biochemistry. 1999 Jun 15;38(24):7617-23.

Effect of protein hydration on receptor conformation: decreased levels of bound water promote metarhodopsin II formation.

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Section of Fluorescence Studies, Laboratory of Membrane Biophysics and Biochemistry, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, Maryland 20852, USA.


Neutral solutes were used to investigate the effects of osmotic stress both on the ability of rhodopsin to undergo its activating conformation change and on acyl chain packing in the rod outer segment (ROS) disk membrane. The equilibrium concentration of metarhodopsin II (MII), the conformation of photoactivated rhodopsin, which binds and activates transducin, was increased by glycerol, sucrose, and stachyose in a manner which was linear with osmolality. Analysis of this shift in equilibrium in terms of the dependence of ln(Keq) on osmolality revealed that 20 +/- 1 water molecules are released during the MI-to-MII transition at 20 degrees C, and at 35 degrees C 13 +/- 1 waters are released. At 35 degrees C the average time constant for MII formation was increased from 1.20 +/- 0.09 ms to 1.63 +/- 0.09 ms by addition of 1 osmolal sucrose or glycerol. The effect of the neutral solutes on acyl chain packing in the ROS disk membrane was assessed via measurements of the fluorescence lifetime and anisotropy decay of 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene (DPH). Analysis of the anisotropy decay of DPH in terms of the rotational diffusion model showed that the angular width of the equilibrium orientational distribution of DPH about the membrane normal was progressively narrowed by increased osmolality. The parameter fv, which is proportional to the overlap between the DPH orientational probability distribution and a random orientational distribution, was reduced by the osmolytes in a manner which was linear with osmolality. This study highlights the potentially opposing interplay between the effect of membrane surface hydration on both the lipid bilayer and integral membrane protein structure. Our results further demonstrate that the binding and release of water molecules play an important role in modulating functional conformational changes for integral membrane proteins, as well as for soluble globular proteins.

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