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Biophys J. 1995 May;68(5):2062-72.

Photocycle of halorhodopsin from Halobacterium salinarium.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, Irvine 92717, USA.


The light-driven chloride pump, halorhodopsin, is a mixture containing all-trans and 13-cis retinal chromophores under both light and dark-adapted conditions and can exist in chloride-free and chloride-binding forms. To describe the photochemical cycle of the all-trans, chloride-binding state that is associated with the transport, and thereby initiate study of the chloride translocation mechanism, one must first dissect the contributions of these species to the measured spectral changes. We resolved the multiple photochemical reactions by determining flash-induced difference spectra and photocycle kinetics in halorhodopsin-containing membranes prepared from Halobacterium salinarium, with light- and dark-adapted samples at various chloride concentrations. The high expression of cloned halorhodopsin made it possible to do these measurements with unfractionated cell envelope membranes in which the chromophore is photostable not only in the presence of NaCl but also in the Na2SO4 solution used for reference. Careful examination of the flash-induced changes at selected wavelengths allowed separating the spectral changes into components and assigning them to the individual photocycles. According to the results, a substantial revision of the photocycle model for H. salinarium halorhodopsin, and its dependence on chloride, is required. The cycle of the all-trans chloride-binding form is described by the scheme, HR-hv-->K<==>L1<==>L2<==>N-->HR, where HR, K, L, and N designate halorhodopsin and its photointermediates. Unlike the earlier models, this is very similar to the photoreaction of bacteriorhodopsin when deprotonation of the Schiff base is prevented (e.g., at low pH or in the D85N mutant). Also unlike in the earlier models, no step in this photocycle was noticeably affected when the chloride concentration was varied between 20 mM and 2 M in an attempt to identify a chloride-binding reaction.

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