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Two photosystems controlling behavioural responses of Halobacterium halobium


Halobacterium halobium contains a retinal–protein complex, bacteriorhodopsin, which is the only protein of the so-called purple membrane forming distinct patches within the surface membrane1,2. Bacteriorhodopsin acts as a photoreceptor molecule and is chemically similar to the visual pigment rhodopsin1,3. On illumination bacteriorhodopsin undergoes a fast cyclic photoreaction with at least four intermediates occurring after microseconds and milliseconds4–6. Various experiments indicate that bacteriorhodopsin functions as a light-driven proton pump which builds up a proton gradient across the cell membrane and is used for ATP synthesis7,8. Thus its primary function, different from that of rhodopsin in the eye, seems to be energy transformation7. Moreover, H. halobium shows light dependent motor responses, and so we supposed that bacteriorhodopsin also has a sensory function. To test this possibility we obtained action spectra for the light-induced behavioural responses from H. halobium. We found two photosystems, one of which shows that bacteriorhodopsin is involved in the light-controlled motor response.

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HILDEBRAND, E., DENCHER, N. Two photosystems controlling behavioural responses of Halobacterium halobium. Nature 257, 46–48 (1975).

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