Crystallographic analysis of protein conformational changes in the bacteriorhodopsin photocycle

Sriram Subramaniam, Richard Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


A variety of neutron, X-ray and electron diffraction experiments have established that the transmembrane regions of bacteriorhodopsin undergo significant light-induced changes in conformation during the course of the photocycle. A recent comprehensive electron crystallographic analysis of light-driven structural changes in wild-type bacteriorhodopsin and a number of mutants has established that a single, large protein conformational change occurs within 1 ms after illumination, roughly coincident with the time scale of formation of the M2 intermediate in the photocycle of wild-type bacteriorhodopsin. Minor differences in structural changes that are observed in mutants that display long-lived M2, N or O intermediates are best described as variations of one fundamental type of conformational change, rather than representing structural changes that are unique to the optical intermediate that is accumulated. These observations support a model for the photocycle of wild-type bacteriorhodopsin in which the structures of the initial state and the early intermediates (K, L and M1) are well approximated by one protein conformation in which the Schiff base has extracellular accessibility, while the structures of the later intermediates (M2, N and O) are well approximated by the other protein conformation in which the Schiff base has cytoplasmic accessibility. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-165
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 30 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Electron microscopy
  • Time-resolved crystallography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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