Research Article

A three-dimensional movie of structural changes in bacteriorhodopsin

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Science  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6319, pp. 1552-1557
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah3497

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Snapshots of bacteriorhodopsin

Bacteriorhodopsin is a membrane protein that harvests the energy content from light to transport protons out of the cell against a transmembrane potential. Nango et al. used timeresolved serial femtosecond crystallography at an x-ray free electron laser to provide 13 structural snapshots of the conformational changes that occur in the nanoseconds to milliseconds after photoactivation. These changes begin at the active site, propagate toward the extracellular side of the protein, and mediate internal protonation exchanges that achieve proton transport.

Science, this issue p. 1552

Abstract

Bacteriorhodopsin (bR) is a light-driven proton pump and a model membrane transport protein. We used time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography at an x-ray free electron laser to visualize conformational changes in bR from nanoseconds to milliseconds following photoactivation. An initially twisted retinal chromophore displaces a conserved tryptophan residue of transmembrane helix F on the cytoplasmic side of the protein while dislodging a key water molecule on the extracellular side. The resulting cascade of structural changes throughout the protein shows how motions are choreographed as bR transports protons uphill against a transmembrane concentration gradient.

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