Raman spectroscopy reveals direct chromophore interactions in the Leu/Gln105 spectral tuning switch of proteorhodopsins.
Proteorhodopsins are an extensive family of photoactive membrane proteins found in proteobacteria distributed throughout the world's oceans which are often classified as green- or blue-absorbing (GPR and BPR, respectively) on the basis of their visible absorption maxima. GPR and BPR have significantly different properties including photocycle lifetimes and wavelength dependence on pH. Previous studies revealed that these different properties are correlated with a single residue, Leu105 in GPR and Gln105 in BPR, although the molecular basis for the different properties of GPR and BPR has not yet been elucidated. We have studied the unexcited states of GPR and BPR using resonance Raman spectroscopy which enhances almost exclusively chromophore vibrations. We find that both spectra are remarkably similar, indicating that the retinylidene structure of GPR and BPR are almost identical. However, the frequency of a band assigned to the retinal C13-methyl-rock vibration is shifted from 1006 cm (-1) in GPR to 1012 cm (-1) in BPR. A similar shift is observed in the GPR mutant L105Q indicating Leu and Gln residues interact differently with the retinal C13-methyl group. The environment of the Schiff base of GPR and BPR differ as indicated by differences in the H/D induced down-shift of the Schiff base vibration. Residues located in transmembrane helices (D-G) do not contribute to the observed differences in the protein-chromophore interaction between BPR and GPR based on the Raman spectra of chimeras. These results support a model whereby the substitution of the hydrophilic Gln105 in BPR with the smaller hydrophobic Leu105 in GPR directly alters the environment of both the retinal C13 group and the Schiff base.