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Biochemistry. 2012 Jul 24;51(29):5748-62. doi: 10.1021/bi300409m. Epub 2012 Jul 10.

Aspartate-histidine interaction in the retinal schiff base counterion of the light-driven proton pump of Exiguobacterium sibiricum.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


One of the distinctive features of eubacterial retinal-based proton pumps, proteorhodopsins, xanthorhodopsin, and others, is hydrogen bonding of the key aspartate residue, the counterion to the retinal Schiff base, to a histidine. We describe properties of the recently found eubacterium proton pump from Exiguobacterium sibiricum (named ESR) expressed in Escherichia coli, especially features that depend on Asp-His interaction, the protonation state of the key aspartate, Asp85, and its ability to accept a proton from the Schiff base during the photocycle. Proton pumping by liposomes and E. coli cells containing ESR occurs in a broad pH range above pH 4.5. Large light-induced pH changes indicate that ESR is a potent proton pump. Replacement of His57 with methionine or asparagine strongly affects the pH-dependent properties of ESR. In the H57M mutant, a dramatic decrease in the quantum yield of chromophore fluorescence emission and a 45 nm blue shift of the absorption maximum with an increase in the pH from 5 to 8 indicate deprotonation of the counterion with a pK(a) of 6.3, which is also the pK(a) at which the M intermediate is observed in the photocycle of the protein solubilized in detergent [dodecyl maltoside (DDM)]. This is in contrast with the case for the wild-type protein, for which the same experiments show that the major fraction of Asp85 is deprotonated at pH >3 and that it protonates only at low pH, with a pK(a) of 2.3. The M intermediate in the wild-type photocycle accumulates only at high pH, with an apparent pK(a) of 9, via deprotonation of a residue interacting with Asp85, presumably His57. In liposomes reconstituted with ESR, the pK(a) values for M formation and spectral shifts are 2-3 pH units lower than in DDM. The distinctively different pH dependencies of the protonation of Asp85 and the accumulation of the M intermediate in the wild-type protein versus the H57M mutant indicate that there is strong Asp-His interaction, which substantially lowers the pK(a) of Asp85 by stabilizing its deprotonated state.

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