Unfolding Pathways of Individual Bacteriorhodopsins

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Science  07 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5463, pp. 143-146
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5463.143

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Atomic force microscopy and single-molecule force spectroscopy were combined to image and manipulate purple membrane patches from Halobacterium salinarum. Individual bacteriorhodopsin molecules were first localized and then extracted from the membrane; the remaining vacancies were imaged again. Anchoring forces between 100 and 200 piconewtons for the different helices were found. Upon extraction, the helices were found to unfold. The force spectra revealed the individuality of the unfolding pathways. Helices G and F as well as helices E and D always unfolded pairwise, whereas helices B and C occasionally unfolded one after the other. Experiments with cleaved loops revealed the origin of the individuality: stabilization of helix B by neighboring helices.

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