Conformational selection and equilibrium governs the ability of retinals to bind opsin

Christopher T. Schafer, David L. Farrens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Despite extensive study,howretinal enters and exits the visual G protein-coupled receptor rhodopsin remains unclear. One clue may lie in two openings between transmembrane helix 1 (TM1) andTM7and betweenTM5andTM6in the active receptor structure. Recently, retinal has been proposed to enter the inactive apoprotein opsin (ops) through these holes when the receptor transiently adopts the active opsin conformation (ops∗). Here, we directly test this "transient activation" hypothesis using a fluorescence-based approach to measure rates of retinal binding to samples containing differing relative fractions of ops and ops∗. In contrast to what the transient activation hypothesis model would predict, we found that binding for the inverse agonist, 11-cis-retinal (11CR), slowed when the sample contained more ops∗ (produced using M257Y, a constitutively activating mutation). Interestingly, the increased presence of ops∗ allowed for binding of the agonist, all-trans-retinal (ATR), whereas WTopsin showednobinding. Shifting the conformational equilibrium toward even more ops∗ using a G protein peptide mimic (either free in solution or fused to the receptor) accelerated the rate of ATR binding and slowed 11CR binding. An arrestin peptide mimic showed little effect on 11CR binding; however, it stabilized opsin·ATR complexes. The TM5/TM6 hole is apparently not involved in this conformational selection. Increasing its size by mutagenesis did not enable ATR binding but instead slowed 11CR binding, suggesting that it may play a role in trapping 11CR. In summary, our results indicate that conformational selection dictates stable retinal binding, which we propose involves ATR and 11CR binding to different states, the latter a previously unidentified, open-but-inactive conformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4304-4318
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 13 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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