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Biophys J. 1990 Feb;57(2):301-11.

High sensitivity electron diffraction analysis. A study of divalent cation binding to purple membrane.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California San Francisco 94143-0448.


A sensitive high-resolution electron diffraction assay for change in structure is described and harnessed to analyze the binding of divalent cations to the purple membrane (PM) of Halobacterium halobium. Low-dose electron diffraction patterns are subject to a matched filter algorithm (Spencer, S. A., and A. A. Kossiakoff. 1980. J. Appl. Crystallogr. 13:563-571). to extract accurate values of reflection intensities. This, coupled with a scheme to account for twinning and specimen tilt in the microscope, yields results that are sensitive enough to rapidly quantitate any structure change in PM brought about by site-directed mutagenesis to the level of less than two carbon atoms. Removal of tightly bound divalent cations (mainly Ca2+ and Mg2+) from PM causes a color change to blue and is accompanied by a severely altered photocycle of the protein bacteriohodopsin (bR), a light-driven proton pump. We characterize the structural changes that occur upon association of 3:1 divalent cation to PM, versus membranes rendered purple by addition of excess Na+. High resolution, low dose electron diffraction data obtained from glucose-embedded samples of Pb2+ and Na+ reconstituted PM preparations at room temperature identify several sites with total occupancy of 2.01 +/- 0.05 Pb2+ equivalents. The color transition as a function of ion concentration for Ca2+ or Mg2+ and Pb2+ are strictly comparable. A (Pb2(+)-Na+) PM Fourier difference map in projection was synthesized at 5 A using the averaged data from several nominally untilted patches corrected for twinning and specimen tilt. We find six major sites located on helices 7, 5, 4, 3, 2 (nomenclature of Engelman et al. 1980. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 77:2023-2027) in close association with bR. These partially occupied sites (0.55-0.24 Pb2+ equivalents) represent preferential sites of binding for divalent cations and complements our earlier result by x-ray diffraction (Katre et al. 1986. Biophys. J. 50:277-284).

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