Xanthorhodopsin (XR), the light-driven proton pump of the halophilic eubacterium Salinibacter ruber, exhibits substantial homology to bacteriorhodopsin (BR) of archaea and proteorhodopsin (PR) of marine bacteria, but unlike them contains a light-harvesting carotenoid antenna, salinixanthin, as well as retinal. We report here the pH-dependent properties of XR. The pKa of the retinal Schiff base is as high as in BR, i.e. ≥12.4. Deprotonation of the Schiff base and the ensuing alkaline denaturation cause large changes in the absorption bands of the carotenoid antenna, which lose intensity and become broader, making the spectrum similar to that of salinixanthin not bound to XR. A small redshift of the retinal chromophore band and increase of its extinction, as well as the pH-dependent amplitude of the M intermediate indicate that in detergent-solubilized XR the pKa of the Schiff base counterion and proton acceptor is about 6 (compared to 2.6 in BR, and 7.5 in PR). The protonation of the counterion is accompanied by a small blueshift of the carotenoid absorption bands. The pigment is stable in the dark upon acidification to pH 2. At pH < 2 a transition to a blueshifted species absorbing around 440 nm occurs, accompanied by loss of resolution of the carotenoid absorption bands. At pH < 3 illumination of XR with continuous light causes accumulation of long-lived photoproduct(s) with an absorption maximum around 400 nm. The photocycle of XR was examined between pH 4 and 10 in solubilized samples. The pH dependence of recovery of the initial state slows at both acid and alkaline pH, with pKas of 6.0 and 9.3. The decrease in the rates with pKa 6.0 is apparently caused by protonation of the counterion and proton acceptor, and that at high pH reflects the pKa of the internal proton donor, Glu94, at the times in the photocycle when this group equilibrates with the bulk.
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Vol. 82 • No. 6