The amplitudes of the conductivity transients in photoexcited purple membranes were studied as a function of the energy of the actinic flash to determine the optical cross section of the process giving rise to the conductivity transient. Heating of the solution by the absorbed light causes an additional conductivity change and serves as an internal actinometer; the experiment directly yields the ratio of the cross section of ion release/uptake to that for light absorption. In effect, this counts the number of bacteriorhodopsin (bR) molecules involved in the conductivity transient per photon absorbed. At pH 7 in 0.4–0.5 M NaCl, where the conductivity signals are dominated by nonproton ions, the ratio is between 3 and 4, i.e., excitation of any one of several chromophores generates the same ion release signal. The simplest interpretation is that at pH 7 cooperative conformational changes cause a transient change in the surface charge distribution near all the affected bR molecules, resulting in the transient release of numerous counterions. As a comparison, at pH 4 where the signals are due to protons alone, the cross section data indicate that only a single bR molecule is involved in the proton movements. In this case, the results also show that the sum of the primary forward and reverse quantum yields (for the reactions: bR----K) is 0.88 +/- 0.09. © 1988, The Biophysical Society. All rights reserved.
Marinetti, T. (1988). Nonproton ion release by purple membranes exhibits cooperativity as shown by determination of the optical cross-section. Biophysical Journal, 54(2), 197–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(88)82948-5