Bacteriorhodopsin: the functional details of a molecular machine are being resolved

Biophys Chem. 2000 Jul 15;85(2-3):229-48. doi: 10.1016/s0301-4622(99)00154-4.


The photon-driven proton translocator bacteriorhodopsin is considered to be the best understood membrane protein so far. It is nowadays regarded as a model system for photosynthesis, ion pumps and seven transmembrane receptors. The profound knowledge came from the applicability of a variety of modern biophysical techniques which have often been further developed with research on bacteriorhodopsin and have delivered major contributions also to other areas. Most prominent examples are electron crystallography, solid-state NMR spectroscopy and time-resolved vibrational spectroscopy. The recently introduced method of crystallising a membrane protein in the lipidic cubic phase led to high-resolution structures of ground state bacteriorhodopsin and some of the photocycle intermediates. This achievement in combination with spectroscopic results will strongly advance our understanding of the functional mechanism of bacteriorhodopsin on the atomic level. We present here the current knowledge on specific aspects of the structural and functional dynamics of the photoreaction of bacteriorhodopsin with a focus on techniques established in our institute.