Dark-adapted halorhodopsin is a mixture of 13-cis and all-trans retinal chromophoric species. It is known that illumination with blue light increases the all-trans content, and this is reversed partially by brief red illumination. We now find that extended red-light illumination produces a third spectroscopic form. Analysis of composite absorption spectra recorded during various illumination regimes yielded the spectrum for the new species, whose absorption is shifted approximately 100 nm to the blue. The isomeric composition of retinal extracted from the illuminated pigment indicates that this form contains 9-cis retinal. This species, which we name iso-halorhodopsin, is stable in the dark at room temperature for at least a day, but can be quantitatively reconverted into a mixture of all-trans and 13-cis halorhodopsin by blue-light illumination. A kinetic scheme for the isomeric interconversions was drawn up, where iso-halorhodopsin is produced from either all-trans halorhodopsin only, or both 13-cis and all-trans forms. This kind of scheme is supported by the finding that red illumination of halo-opsin reconstituted with 13-trans-locked retinal will generate iso-halorhodopsin. A similar experiment with 13-cis-locked retinal could not be done because reconstitution with this retinal analogue was not possible. The photoreaction that leads to iso-halorhodopsin can be readily demonstrated in detergent-solubilized halorhodopsin or in halorhodopsin in liposomes made from phosphatidylcholine plus phosphatidyl-ethanolamine, but only to much reduced extent in cell envelope vesicles and in halorhodopsin incorporated into liposomes made from halobacterial polar lipids.
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