Vibrational Spectroscopy of Cation and Anion Channelrhodopsins

Speaker: Adrian Yi

When: April 5, 2017 (Wed), 04:00PM to 05:00PM (add to my calendar)
Location: SCI 328

This event is part of the PhD Final Oral Exams.

Examining Committee: Kenneth Rothschild, Shyam Erramilli, Claudio Rebbi, Melvin Carter Cornwall, Robert Carey


Optogenetics is a technique to control and monitor cell activity with light by expression of specific microbial rhodopsins. Cation channelrhodopsins (CCRs) and anion channelrhodopsins (ACRs) have been demonstrated to activate and silence cell activity, respectively. In this dissertation, the molecular mechanisms of two channelrhodopsins are studied: a CCR from Chlamydomonas augustae (CaChR1) and an ACR from Guillardia theta (GtACR1). The recently discovered GtACR1 is especially interesting, as it achieves neural silencing with 1/1000th of the light intensity compared to previous microbial rhodopsin silencing ion pumps. Static and time-resolved resonance Raman, FTIR difference, and UV-visible spectroscopies were utilized in addition to various biochemical and genetic techniques to explore the molecular mechanisms of these channelrhodopsins. In CaChR1, Glu169 and Asp299 residues are located nearby the Schiff base (SB) similar to the homologous residues Asp85 and Asp212, which exist in an ionized state in unphotolyzed bacteriorhodopsin (BR) and play a key role in proton pumping. We observe significant changes in the protonation states of the SB, Glu169, and Asp299 of CaChR1 leading up to the open-channel P2 state, where all three groups exist in a charge neutral state. This unusual charge neutrality along with the position of these groups in the CaChR1 ion channel suggests that charge neutrality plays an important role in cation gating and selectivity in these low efficiency CCRs. Significant differences exist in the photocycle and protonation/hydrogen bonding states of key residues in GtACR1 compared to BR and CaChR1. Resonance Raman studies reveal that in the unphotolyzed state of GtACR1, residues Glu68, Ser97 (BR Asp85 homolog), and Asp234 (BR Asp212 homolog) located near the SB exist in charge neutral states. Furthermore, upon K formation, these residues do not change their protonation states. At room temperature, a slow decay of the red-shifted K intermediate is observed, which exists in equilibrium with the L intermediate. At 80 K, a lower thermal barrier for K → L transition is observed compared to BR and CaChR1. This effect may be due to substitution of a Met residue at position 105 for the more common Leu or Ile residue.