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Annu Rev Phys Chem. 2013;64:437-58. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physchem-040412-110148. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

Shedding new light on retinal protein photochemistry.

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Institute of Chemistry and the Farkas Center for Light-Induced Processes, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel.


The ultrafast spectroscopic investigation of novel retinal proteins challenges existing notions concerning the course of primary events in these natural photoreceptors. We review two illustrations here. The first demonstrates that changes in the initial retinal configuration can alter the duration of photochemistry by nearly an order of magnitude in Anabaena sensory rhodopsin, making it as rapid as the ballistic photoisomerization in visual pigments. This prompted a reinvestigation of the much studied bacteriorhodopsin, leading to a similar trend as well, contrary to earlier reports. The second involves the study of xanthorhodopsin, an archaeal proton pump that includes an attached light-harvesting carotenoid. Pump-probe experiments demonstrate the efficient transfer of energy from carotenoid to retinal, providing a first glimpse at a cooperative multichromophore function, which is probably characteristic of many other proteins as well. Finally, we discuss measures required to advance our knowledge from kinetics to mode-specific dynamics concerning this expanding family of biological photoreceptors.

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