Oligomeric States of Microbial Rhodopsins Determined by High-Speed Atomic Force Microscopy and Circular Dichroic Spectroscopy

Sci Rep. 2018 May 29;8(1):8262. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26606-y.


Oligomeric assembly is a common feature of membrane proteins and often relevant to their physiological functions. Determining the stoichiometry and the oligomeric state of membrane proteins in a lipid bilayer is generally challenging because of their large size, complexity, and structural alterations under experimental conditions. Here, we use high-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) to directly observe the oligomeric states in the lipid membrane of various microbial rhodopsins found within eubacteria to archaea. HS-AFM images show that eubacterial rhodopsins predominantly exist as pentamer forms, while archaeal rhodopsins are trimers in the lipid membrane. In addition, circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy reveals that pentameric rhodopsins display inverted CD couplets compared to those of trimeric rhodopsins, indicating different types of exciton coupling of the retinal chromophore in each oligomer. The results clearly demonstrate that the stoichiometry of the fundamental oligomer of microbial rhodopsins strongly correlate with the phylogenetic tree, providing a new insight into the relationship between the oligomeric structure and function-structural evolution of microbial rhodopsins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods*
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Rhodopsins, Microbial / chemistry*
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Rhodopsins, Microbial