Research Article

Retinal isomerization in bacteriorhodopsin captured by a femtosecond x-ray laser

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Science  13 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6398, eaat0094
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat0094

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Organisms from bacteria to humans sense and react to light. Proteins that contain the light-sensitive molecule retinal couple absorption of light to conformational changes that produce a signal or move ions across a membrane. Nogly et al. used an x-ray laser to probe the earliest structural changes to the retinal chromophore within microcrystals of the ion pump bacteriorhodopsin (see the Perspective by Moffat). The excited-state retinal wiggles but is held in place so that only one double bond of retinal is capable of isomerizing. A water molecule adjacent to the proton-pumping Schiff base responds to changes in charge distribution in the chromophore even before the movement of atoms begins.

Science, this issue p. eaat0094; see also p. 127