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The Protonation State of Glu181 in Rhodopsin Revisited: Interpretation of Experimental Data on the Basis of QM/MM Calculations

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posted on 02.09.2010, 00:00 by Jan S. Frähmcke, Marius Wanko, Prasad Phatak, Maria Andrea Mroginski, Marcus Elstner
The structure and spectroscopy of rhodopsin have been intensely studied in the past decade both experimentally and theoretically; however, important issues still remain unresolved. Of central interest is the protonation state of Glu181, where controversial and contradictory experimental evidence has appeared. While FTIR measurements indicate this residue to be unprotonated, preresonance Raman and UV−vis spectra have been interpreted in favor of a protonated Glu181. Previous computational approaches were not able to resolve this issue, providing contradicting data as well. Here, we perform hybrid QM/MM calculations using DFT methods for the electronic ground state, MRCI methods for the electronically excited states, and a polarization model for the MM part in order to investigate this issue systematically. We constructed various active-site models for protonated as well as unprotonated Glu181, which were evaluated by computing NMR, IR, Raman, and UV−vis spectroscopic data. The resulting differences in the UV−vis and Raman spectra between protonated and unprotonated models are very subtle, which has two major consequences. First, the common interpretation of prior Raman and UV−vis experiments in favor of a neutral Glu181 appears questionable, as it is based on the assumption that a charge at the Glu181 location would have a sizable impact. Second, also theoretical results should be interpreted with care. Spectroscopic differences between the structural models must be related to modeling uncertainties and intrinsic methodological errors. Despite a detailed comparison of various rhodopsins and mutants and consistently favorite results with charged Glu181 models, we find merely weak evidence from UV−vis and Raman calculations. On the contrary, difference FTIR and NMR chemical shift measurements on Rh mutants are indicative of the protonation state of Glu181. Supported by our results, they provide strong and independent evidence for a charged Glu181.

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