Treatment of the purple membrane of Halobacterium halobium with tetranitromethane led to modification of tyrosine residues. Modification of more than 3-4 tyrosine residues per bacteriorhodopsin monomer caused a decrease in the light-induced proton-pumping ability of purple membrane in synthetic lipid vesicles, loss of the sharp X-ray-diffraction patterns characteristic of the crystal lattice, loss of the absorbance maximum at 560 nm, and change in the buoyant density of the membrane. No modification of lipid was detected. These changes were interpreted as a gradual denaturation of the protein component such that when 8-9 tyrosine residues are modified, no proton pumping is observed. Modification of less than 3-4 tyrosine residues with tetranitromethane caused an increse in light-induced proton pumping. It was possible to generate partly modified purple membrane which had completely lost the property of diffracting X-rays into the sharp pattern observed with native purple membrane, but which still retained the ability to pump protons in a vectorial manner. Retention of crystal lattice is not essential for proton pumping.
- © 1979 London: The Biochemical Society