The opsin shift and mechanism of spectral tuning in rhodopsin

Ramkumar Rajamani, Yen Lin Lin, Jiali Gao

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33 Scopus citations


Molecular dynamics simulations and combined quantum mechanical and molecular mechanical calculations have been performed to investigate the mechanism of the opsin shift and spectral tuning in rhodopsin. A red shift of -980 cm-1 was estimated in the transfer of the chromophore from methanol solution environment to the protonated Schiff base (PSB)-binding site of the opsin. The conformational change from a 6-s-cis-all-trans configuration in solution to the 6-s-cis-11-cis conformer contributes additional -200 cm -1, and the remaining effects were attributed to dispersion interactions with the aromatic residues in the binding site. An opsin shift of 2100 cm-1 was obtained, in reasonable accord with experiment (2730 cm-1). Dynamics simulations revealed that the 6-s-cis bond can occupy two main conformations for the β-ionone ring, resulting in a weighted average dihedral angle of about -50°, which may be compared with the experimental estimate of -28° from solid-state NMR and Raman data. We investigated a series of four single mutations, including E113D, A292S, T118A, and A269T, which are located near the PSB, along the polyene chain of retinal and close to the ionone ring. The computational results on absorption energy shift provided insights into the mechanism of spectral tuning, which involves all means of electronic structural effects, including the stabilization or destabilization of either the ground or the electronically excited state of the retinal PSB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)854-865
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Computational Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 15 2011


  • QM/MM
  • rhodopsin
  • solvation effects
  • spectral shifts


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