Zheng, Lijun; Farrell, David M.; Fulton, Ruth M.; Bagg, Eve E.; Salcedo, Ernesto; Manino, Meridee; Britt, Steven G.
Analysis of Conserved Glutamate and Aspartate Residues in Drosophila Rhodopsin 1 and Their Influence on Spectral Tuning

The molecular mechanisms that regulate invertebrate visual pigment absorption are poorly understood. Studies of amphioxus G(o)-opsin have demonstrated that Glu-181 functions as the counterion in this pigment. This finding has led to the proposal that Glu-181 may function as the counterion in other invertebrate visual pigments as well. Here we describe a series of mutagenesis experiments to test this hypothesis and to also test whether other conserved acidic amino acids in Drosophila Rhodopsin 1 (Rh1) may serve as the counterion of this visual pigment. Of the 5 Glu and Asp residues replaced by Gln or Asn in our experiments, none of the mutant pigments shift the absorption of Rh1 by more than 6 nm. In combination with prior studies, these results suggest that the counterion in Drosophila Rh1 may not be located at Glu-181 as in amphioxus, or at Glu-113 as in bovine rhodopsin. Conversely, the extremely low steady state levels of the E194Q mutant pigment (bovine opsin site Glu-181), and the rhabdomere degeneration observed in flies expressing this mutant demonstrate that a negatively charged residue at this position is essential for normal rhodopsin function in vivo. This work also raises the possibility that another residue or physiologic anion may compensate for the missing counterion in the E194Q mutant.


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