Comparative Mutagenesis Studies of Retinal Release in Light-Activated Zebrafish Rhodopsin Using Fluorescence Spectroscopy

2015-07-28T00:00:00Z (GMT) by J. M. Morrow B. S. W. Chang
Rhodopsin is the visual pigment responsible for initiating scotopic (dim-light) vision in vetebrates. Once activated by light, release of all-trans-retinal from rhodopsin involves hydrolysis of the Schiff base linkage, followed by dissociation of retinal from the protein moiety. This kinetic process has been well studied in model systems such as bovine rhodopsin, but not in rhodopsins from cold-blooded animals, where physiological temperatures can vary considerably. Here, we characterize the rate of retinal release from light-activated rhodopsin in an ectotherm, zebrafish (Danio rerio), demonstrating in a fluorescence assay that this process occurs more than twice as fast as bovine rhodopsin at similar temperatures in 0.1% dodecyl maltoside. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we found that differences in retinal release rates can be attributed to a series of variable residues lining the retinal channel in three key structural motifs: an opening in metarhodopsin II between transmembrane helix 5 (TM5) and TM6, in TM3 near E122, and in the “retinal plug” formed by extracellular loop 2 (EL2). The majority of these sites are more proximal to the β-ionone ring of retinal than the Schiff base, indicating their influence on retinal release is more likely due to steric effects during retinal dissociation, rather than alterations to Schiff base stability. An Arrhenius plot of zebrafish rhodopsin was consistent with this model, inferring that the activation energy for Schiff base hydrolysis is similar to that of bovine rhodopsin. Functional variation at key sites identified in this study is consistent with the idea that retinal release might be an adaptive property of rhodopsin in vertebrates. Our study is one of the few investigating a nonmammalian rhodopsin, which will help establish a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms contributing to vision in cold-blooded vertebrates.