What site-directed labeling studies tell us about the mechanism of rhodopsin activation and G-protein binding

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25 Scopus citations


Rhodopsin is the photoreceptor protein responsible for dim-light vision in mammals. Due to extensive biophysical, structural and computational analysis of this membrane protein, it is presently the best understood G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR). Here I briefly review one approach that has been extensively used to identify dynamic and structural changes in rhodopsin - the use of site-directed labeling methods (SDL) coupled with electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and fluorescence spectroscopy. These SDL studies involve introducing individual cysteine residues into the receptor, then labeling them with cysteine-reactive probes for subsequent analysis by the appropriate spectroscopy. I will give a brief overview of how SDL methods are carried out and how the data is analyzed. Then, I will discuss how SDL studies were carried out on rhodopsin, and how they were used to identify a key structural change that occurs in rhodopsin upon activation - movement of transmembrane helix 6 (TM6). I will also briefly discuss how the SDL studies of rhodopsin compare with SDL studies of other GPCRs, and compare the SDL data with early and recent crystal structures of rhodopsin. Finally, I will discuss why the TM6 movement is required for rhodopsin to couple with the G-protein transducin, and speculate how this mechanism might be a universal method used by all GPCRs to bind G-proteins and perhaps other proteins involved in visual signal transduction, such as arrestin and rhodopsin kinase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1466-1474
Number of pages9
JournalPhotochemical and Photobiological Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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