Local vibrational coherences drive the primary photochemistry of vision

Nat Chem. 2015 Dec;7(12):980-6. doi: 10.1038/nchem.2398. Epub 2015 Nov 16.


The role of vibrational coherence-concerted vibrational motion on the excited-state potential energy surface-in the isomerization of retinal in the protein rhodopsin remains elusive, despite considerable experimental and theoretical efforts. We revisited this problem with resonant ultrafast heterodyne-detected transient-grating spectroscopy. The enhanced sensitivity that this technique provides allows us to probe directly the primary photochemical reaction of vision with sufficient temporal and spectral resolution to resolve all the relevant nuclear dynamics of the retinal chromophore during isomerization. We observed coherent photoproduct formation on a sub-50 fs timescale, and recovered a host of vibrational modes of the retinal chromophore that modulate the transient-grating signal during the isomerization reaction. Through Fourier filtering and subsequent time-domain analysis of the transient vibrational dynamics, the excited-state nuclear motions that drive the isomerization reaction were identified, and comprise stretching, torsional and out-of-plane wagging motions about the local C11=C12 isomerization coordinate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Isomerism
  • Photochemistry
  • Rhodopsin / chemistry*
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Vibration*


  • Rhodopsin