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J Biol Chem. 2004 Aug 20;279(34):35932-41. Epub 2004 Jun 12.

Critical role of transmembrane segment zinc binding in the structure and function of rhodopsin.

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Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.


Zinc deficiency and retinitis pigmentosa are both important factors resulting in retinal dysfunction and night blindness. In this study, we address the critical biochemical and structural relevance of zinc ions in rhodopsin and examine whether zinc deficiency can lead to rhodopsin dysfunction. We report the identification of a high-affinity zinc coordination site within the transmembrane domain of rhodopsin, coordinated by the side chains of two highly conserved residues, Glu(122) in transmembrane helix III and His(211) in transmembrane helix V. We also demonstrate that this zinc coordination is critical for rhodopsin folding, 11-cis-retinal binding, and the stability of the chromophore-receptor interaction, defects of which are observed in retinitis pigmentosa. Furthermore, a cluster of retinitis pigmentosa mutations is localized within and around this zinc binding site. Based on these studies, we believe that improvement in zinc binding to rhodopsin at this site within the transmembrane domain may be a pharmacological approach for the treatment of select retinitis pigmentosa mutations. Transmembrane coordination of zinc may also be an important common principle across G-protein-coupled receptors.

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