Comparison of the Structural Changes Occurring during the Primary Phototransition of Two Different Channelrhodopsins from Chlamydomonas Algae
Abstract: Channelrhodopsins (ChRs) from green flagellate algae function as light-gated ion channels when expressed heterologously in mammalian cells. Considerable interest has focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of ChRs to bioengineer their properties for specific optogenetic applications such as elucidating the function of specific neurons in brain circuits. While most studies have used channelrhodopsin-2 from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (CrChR2), in this work low-temperature Fourier transform infrared-difference spectroscopy is applied to study the conformational changes occurring during the primary phototransition of the red-shifted ChR1 from Chlamydomonas augustae (CaChR1). Substitution with isotope-labeled retinals or the retinal analogue A2, site-directed mutagenesis, hydrogen–deuterium exchange, and H218O exchange were used to assign bands to the retinal chromophore, protein, and internal water molecules. The primary phototransition of CaChR1 at 80 K involves, in contrast to that of CrChR2, almost exclusively an all-trans to 13-cis isomerization of the retinal chromophore, as in the primary phototransition of bacteriorhodopsin (BR). In addition, significant differences are found for structural changes of the protein and internal water(s) compared to those of CrChR2, including the response of several Asp/Glu residues to retinal isomerization. A negative amide II band is identified in the retinal ethylenic stretch region of CaChR1, which reflects along with amide I bands alterations in protein backbone structure early in the photocycle. A decrease in the hydrogen bond strength of a weakly hydrogen bonded internal water is detected in both CaChR1 and CrChR2, but the bands are much broader in CrChR2, indicating a more heterogeneous environment. Mutations involving residues Glu169 and Asp299 (homologues of the Asp85 and Asp212 Schiff base counterions, respectively, in BR) lead to the conclusion that Asp299 is protonated during P1 formation and suggest that these residues interact through a strong hydrogen bond that facilitates the transfer of a proton from Glu169.