The transmembrane 7-alpha-bundle of rhodopsin: distance geometry calculations with hydrogen bonding constraints

Biophys J. 1997 May;72(5):1963-85. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(97)78842-8.


A 3D model of the transmembrane 7-alpha-bundle of rhodopsin-like G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) was calculated using an iterative distance geometry refinement with an evolving system of hydrogen bonds, formed by intramembrane polar side chains in various proteins of the family and collectively applied as distance constraints. The alpha-bundle structure thus obtained provides H bonding of nearly all buried polar side chains simultaneously in the 410 GPCRs considered. Forty evolutionarily conserved GPCR residues form a single continuous domain, with an aliphatic "core" surrounded by six clusters of polar and aromatic side chains. The 7-alpha-bundle of a specific GPCR can be calculated using its own set of H bonds as distance constraints and the common "average" model to restrain positions of the helices. The bovine rhodopsin model thus determined is closely packed, but has a few small polar cavities, presumably filled by water, and has a binding pocket that is complementary to 11-cis (6-s-cis, 12-s-trans, C = N anti)-retinal or to all-trans-retinal, depending on conformations of the Lys296 and Trp265 side chains. A suggested mechanism of rhodopsin photoactivation, triggered by the cis-trans isomerization of retinal, involves rotations of Glu134, Tyr223, Trp265, Lys296, and Tyr306 side chains and rearrangement of their H bonds. The model is in agreement with published electron cryomicroscopy, mutagenesis, chemical modification, cross-linking, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, NMR, and optical spectroscopy data. The rhodopsin model and the published structure of bacteriorhodopsin have very similar retinal-binding pockets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Hydrogen Bonding*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rhodopsin / chemistry*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Rhodopsin

Associated data

  • SWISSPROT/P32311
  • SWISSPROT/P32312