In the current studies, we examined the effects of hexagonal lattice formation with lipid membranes on the structural stability of native bacteriorhodopsin (bR). Denaturation kinetic measurements for bR solubilized with the mild nonionic detergent Triton X-100 (TX100) were performed in the dark and under illumination by visible light. The solubilized bR was stable in the dark over a wide concentration range of TX100 (1 to 200 mM). In purple membranes, a bilobed band was observed in visible circular dichroism spectra due to interactions between neighboring chromophores. At all concentrations of TX100, this was replaced by a single positive band. Upon illumination with visible light, TX100-solubilized bR clearly showed photobleaching to bacterioopsin. These experimental results suggest that photobleaching is due to a lack of intermolecular interactions inside the purple membrane lattice. Extensive kinetic measurements further revealed that the rate constant of photobleaching is strongly dependent on the detergent concentration, although the activation energy for photobleaching does not significantly change with the TX100 concentration. The mechanism of photobleaching for the solubilized bR is discussed with respect to detergent micelle properties.
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Vol. 81 • No. 5