Proton Transfers in a Channelrhodopsin-1 Studied by Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Difference Spectroscopy and Site-directed Mutagenesis
Abstract: Channelrhodopsin-1 from the alga Chlamydomonas augustae (CaChR1) is a low-efficiency light-activated cation channel that exhibits properties useful for optogenetic applications such as a slow light inactivation and a red-shifted visible absorption maximum as compared with the more extensively studied channelrhodopsin-2 from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (CrChR2). Previously, both resonance Raman and low-temperature FTIR difference spectroscopy revealed that unlike CrChR2, CaChR1 under our conditions exhibits an almost pure all-trans retinal composition in the unphotolyzed ground state and undergoes an all-trans to 13-cis isomerization during the primary phototransition typical of other microbial rhodopsins such as bacteriorhodopsin (BR). Here, we apply static and rapid-scan FTIR difference spectroscopy along with site-directed mutagenesis to characterize the proton transfer events occurring upon the formation of the long-lived conducting P2380 state of CaChR1. Assignment of carboxylic C=O stretch bands indicates that Asp-299 (homolog to Asp-212 in BR) becomes protonated and Asp-169 (homolog to Asp-85 in BR) undergoes a net change in hydrogen bonding relative to the unphotolyzed ground state of CaChR1. These data along with earlier FTIR measurements on the CaChR1 → P1 transition are consistent with a two-step proton relay mechanism that transfers a proton from Glu-169 to Asp-299 during the primary phototransition and from the Schiff base to Glu-169 during P2380 formation. The unusual charge neutrality of both Schiff base counterions in the P2380 conducting state suggests that these residues may function as part of a cation selective filter in the open channel state of CaChR1 as well as other low-efficiency ChRs.