Dual Photoisomerization on Distinct Potential Energy Surfaces in a UV-Absorbing Rhodopsin

Yusaku Hontani, Matthias Broser, Meike Luck, Jörn Weißenborn, Miroslav Kloz, Peter Hegemann, John T.M. Kennis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


UV-absorbing rhodopsins are essential for UV vision and sensing in all kingdoms of life. Unlike the well-known visible-absorbing rhodopsins, which bind a protonated retinal Schiff base for light absorption, UV-absorbing rhodopsins bind an unprotonated retinal Schiff base. Thus far, the photoreaction dynamics and mechanisms of UV-absorbing rhodopsins have remained essentially unknown. Here, we report the complete excited-and ground-state dynamics of the UV form of histidine kinase rhodopsin 1 (HKR1) from eukaryotic algae, using femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS) and transient absorption spectroscopy, covering time scales from femtoseconds to milliseconds. We found that energy-level ordering is inverted with respect to visible-absorbing rhodopsins, with an optically forbidden low-lying S1 excited state that has Ag- symmetry and a higher-lying UV-absorbing S2 state of Bu+ symmetry. UV-photoexcitation to the S2 state elicits a unique dual-isomerization reaction: first, C13=C14 cis-trans isomerization occurs during S2-S1 evolution in <100 fs. This very fast reaction features the remarkable property that the newly formed isomer appears in the excited state rather than in the ground state. Second, C15=N16 anti-syn isomerization occurs on the S1-S0 evolution to the ground state in 4.8 ps. We detected two ground-state unprotonated retinal photoproducts, 13-trans/15-anti (all-trans) and 13-cis/15-syn, after relaxation to the ground state. These isomers become protonated in 58 μs and 3.2 ms, respectively, resulting in formation of the blue-absorbing form of HKR1. Our results constitute a benchmark of UV-induced photochemistry of animal and microbial rhodopsins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11464-11473
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number26
Early online date30 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


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