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Biochemistry. 2008 Apr 22;47(16):4614-20. doi: 10.1021/bi702069d. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

Spectral tuning of deep red cone pigments.

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  • 1Departments of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, 55 North Eagleville Road, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.


Visual pigments are G-protein-coupled receptors that provide a critical interface between organisms and their external environment. Natural selection has generated vertebrate pigments that absorb light from the far-UV (360 nm) to the deep red (630 nm) while using a single chromophore, in either the A1 (11- cis-retinal) or A2 (11- cis-3,4-dehydroretinal) form. The fact that a single chromophore can be manipulated to have an absorption maximum across such an extended spectral region is remarkable. The mechanisms of wavelength regulation remain to be fully revealed, and one of the least well-understood mechanisms is that associated with the deep red pigments. We investigate theoretically the hypothesis that deep red cone pigments select a 6- s- trans conformation of the retinal chromophore ring geometry. This conformation is in contrast to the 6- s- cis ring geometry observed in rhodopsin and, through model chromophore studies, the vast majority of visual pigments. Nomographic spectral analysis of 294 A1 and A2 cone pigment literature absorption maxima indicates that the selection of a 6- s- trans geometry red shifts M/LWS A1 pigments by approximately 1500 cm (-1) ( approximately 50 nm) and A2 pigments by approximately 2700 cm (-1) ( approximately 100 nm). The homology models of seven cone pigments indicate that the deep red cone pigments select 6- s- trans chromophore conformations primarily via electrostatic steering. Our results reveal that the generation of a 6- s- trans conformation not only achieves a significant red shift but also provides enhanced stability of the chromophore within the deep red cone pigment binding sites.

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