Transmembrane location of the retinal chromophore in the purple membrane of Halobacterium halobium was investigated in three different systems in which excitation energy transfer between the chromophore and external dye molecules condensed on the membrane surfaces was observed. In system ii, the energy donor was the retinal chromophore converted in situ to a fluorescent derivative. The fluorescent membranes were embedded in solid cobalt-EDTA, which served as energy acceptors. System iii was similar to system ii, except that the acceptors were tris(2,2′-bipyridyl)ruthenium(II) complex in solid form. The positively charged ruthenium complex had a radius of 0.7 nm, whereas the cobalt complex in system ii was smaller (radius ∼0.4 nm) and negatively charged. System iv was stacked sheets of native purple membrane with interspersed ruthenium complex; energy transfer from the luminescent ruthenuim complex to the native retinal chromophore was observed. The energy transfer rates in these three systems, and in two additional systems already described (Kouyama, T., K. Kinosita, Jr., and A. Ikegami, 1983, J. Mol. Biol., 165:91–107), were all consistent with a location of the retinal chromophore at a depth of 1.0 ± 0.3 nm from a surface of the purple membrane. All the analyses in the present work involved an assumption that contacts between the external dye molecules and membrane surfaces were maximal; the depth values obtained cannot be underestimates. The chromophore therefore must be outside the middle one-third of the thickness, ∼4.5 nm, of the purple membrane.
ASJC Scopus subject areas