Influence of the protein environment on spectroscopy and ultrafast dynamics of retinal in bacteriorhodopsin

The environment is important for the exact course of a chemical reaction. As an example of the strong influence of the environment on the reaction, this work studies the isomerization reaction of the chromophore retinal in the binding pocket of the protein bacteriorhodopsin. Three selected distance scales with reference to the chromophore are addressed: The distant protein surface at a length scale of 3-5 nm, the fuzzy environment of the binding pocket (1-2 nm) and the immediate neighborhood represented by the amino acid tryptophan Trp86 (5 Å). First, static absorption and fluorescence spectroscopies are applied to three dimensionally crystallized bacteriorhodopsin. An especially adapted set-up was developed for each task. The analysis of data is carried out in comparison with the measured spectra of the native protein membrane in solution. While the absorption spectrum shows a broadening on the high-energy side, the fluorescence spectrum deviates in the general shape of that measured in solution. The synoptic analysis of all spectra reveals the existence of three spectroscopically distinct species in the crystal: BR490 (absorption maximum at 490 nm) with a relative contribution of 28%, BR570 (native spectrum of solution, 68%), and BR610 ("blue membrane", 4%). BR490 appears particularly in the additional fluorescence band at 550 nm and is assigned to the dehydrated species of bacteriorhodopsin. The presence of that particular species indicates the suppression of rehydration in a partially dehydrated crystal and shows that the three dimensional arrangement hinders water diffusion. A simple model, close domains are assumed to form, eventually suppressing free water diffusion in a crystal. The lack of water on the protein surface modifies the protonation states of the amino acids in the binding pocket and therefore the optical properties of the retinal. The chromophore actually reacts on the alteration of its distant environment upon incorporation in the protein crystal. The second distance scale - the fuzzy environment - is addressed by a time-integrated fluorescence spectroscopy on native bacteriorhodopsin as function of the excitation wavelength (430 nm to 650 nm). The optimized experimental set-up guaranteed that the fluorescence of only the excited state I460 contributed. The measured spectra show maxima at 740 nm, and exhibit a Stokes shift of 5000 cm-1, independent of the excitation wavelength. The similarity of the fluorescence excitation spectrum with the spectrum of absorbed photons excludes energy-dependent loss channels. However, the spectra show a growing asymmetric broadening on the high-energy side with decreasing excitation wavelength. The additional fluorescence originates from vibrational hot states, also supported by the decomposition by Gaussian functions. A comparison with the fluorescence spectrum of blue membranes shows that the low-energy part also arises from vibrational hot states. Consequently, the first fast intramolecular vibrational energy relaxation does not entirely distribute the access-energy to other modes. The remaining energy is found in a quasi-static occupation of vibrational modes. The subsequent second vibrational relaxation — probably not only involving the retinal but also the protein — takes place on a time scale similar to that of the isomerization. The fast isomerization reaction prevents dissipation of energy relaxation of the excited state of the retinal into the protein environment. On a third distance scale, femtosecond spectroscopy in the UV offers a direct view into the electrostatic interaction of the chromophore with its immediate neighborhood. For the first time, the retinal isomerization was studied within the spectral window of the tryptophan absorption from 265 nm to 310 nm. For this, a set-up adapted to UV wavelengths was realized, basing on non-linear optics. The developed single-shot detection system yields a sensitivity of 10-5 in optical density. In the transient absorption measurements, a time resolution of 90 fs was achieved. At short probe wavelengths (265 nm - 294 nm), the measured transients show first a fast reduction of the absorption which subsequently recovers on three time scales (380 fs, 3 ps, > 16 ps). With increasing probe wavelength an induced transient absorption becomes dominant (282 nm - 294 nm). It has a rise time of 280 fs, and decays with a time constant of 4.3 ps. With further increasing probe wavelength the absorption signal decays faster. In response to the complex signature of the transients, an iterative and model-independent transient-decomposition is introduced. A set of three basis elements were identified: one bleach, and two absorption transients. The two induced absorption transients are assigned to retinal. The dynamics of the excited state (I460) in the first retinal-transient is described by two time constants (280 fs and 1 ps). The fast time constant leads to the photoproduct, while the slower one leads back to the ground state, presumably by internal conversion. The 250 fs delayed onset of the second transient (photo-intermediate J) is connected to a wave packet motion in the excited state. This delayed onset of the transient was observed for the first time. It demands a rise time of the J photo-intermediate of only 280 fs. This contrasts common estimates of 500 fs given in literature. For the first time, the temporal behavior of the permanent dipole moment of retinal is observed experimentally. Its evolution is imprinted in the dominant bleach feature (265 nm - 294 nm), originating from tryptophan Trp86. In the excited state, the permanent dipole moment increases strongly within the first 250 fs, and decays exponentially afterwards, following the formation of the photoproduct. However, the related time constant of 380 fs is slightly greater than that of 280 fs of the photoproduct J. This discrepancy may indicate a remaining long-lived polarization of the binding pocket. In brief, by using the intrinsic tryptophan as a probe, the local evolution of the electric field during the isomerization reaction was investigated. Indeed the isomerization reaction is reflected in the immediate environment. The variety of optical spectroscopy provides methods especially adapted for studying the influences of the environment on a chemical reaction. The results achieved here highlight the importance of these influences.

Haacke, Stefan
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis2962-8

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2005-03-16, last modified 2018-05-01

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