Halorhodopsin (HR), the light-driven chloride transport pigment of Halobacterium halobium, was bleached and reconstituted with retinal analogues with the pi electron system interrupted at different locations (dihydroretinals). The absorption maxima of the artificial pigments formed with the dihydroretinals are found to be very similar to those of the corresponding pigments formed by reconstitution of bacteriorhodopsin (BR) and sensory rhodopsin (SR). This strongly suggests that the distribution of charges around the retinal is similar in all three bacterial rhodopsins. Comparison of the primary, and proposed secondary, structures for HR and BR reveal conserved asparagine (asp) and arginine (arg) residues, which are likely candidates for the ionizable amino acids that interact with the retinal. In a second set of experiments absorption shifts due to the binding of anions to Sites I and II in HR, reconstituted with different retinal analogues, were used to estimate the locations of these binding sites relative to the retinal. Site I is localized near the Schiff base, and Site II near the ionone ring. On the basis of these results a structural model for HR is proposed, which accounts for the spectroscopic properties of HR in terms of the three buried arg residues and two of the buried asp residues in the protein
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