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Biochemistry. 2011 Jun 7;50(22):5086-91. doi: 10.1021/bi200391a. Epub 2011 May 13.

Rhodopsin in nanodiscs has native membrane-like photointermediates.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon 97239, United States.


Time-dependent studies of membrane protein function are hindered by extensive light scattering that impedes application of fast optical absorbance methods. Detergent solubilization reduces light scattering but strongly perturbs rhodopsin activation kinetics. Nanodiscs may be a better alternative if they can be shown to be free from the serious kinetic perturbations associated with detergent solubilization. To resolve this, we monitored absorbance changes due to photointermediates formed on the microsecond to hundred millisecond time scale after excitation of bovine rhodopsin nanodiscs and compared them to photointermediates that form in hypotonically washed native membranes as well as to those that form in lauryl maltoside suspensions at 15 and 30 °C over a pH range from 6.5 to 8.7. Time-resolved difference spectra were collected from 300 to 700 nm at a series of time delays after photoexcitation and globally fit to a sum of time-decaying exponential terms, and the photointermediates present were determined from the spectral coefficients of the exponential terms. At the temperatures and pHs studied, photointermediates formed after photoexcitation of rhodopsin in nanodiscs are extremely similar to those that form in native membrane, in particular displaying the normal forward shift of the Meta I(480) ⇄ Meta II equilibrium with increased temperature and reduced pH which occurs in native membrane but which is not observed in lauryl maltoside detergent suspensions. These results were obtained using the amount of rhodopsin in nanodiscs which is required for optical experiments with rhodopsin mutants. This work demonstrates that late, physiologically important rhodopsin photointermediates can be characterized in nanodiscs, which provide the superior optical properties of detergent without perturbing the activation sequence.

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