Spectral properties and isomerisation path of retinal in C1C2 channelrhodopsin†
Structure and excited state isomerisation pathway of retinal in the channelrhodopsin chimera C1C2 have been investigated with combined quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) techniques, applying CD-MS-CASPT2//CASSCF and DFT-MRCI quantum methods. The absorbing S1 state is of 1Bu-like character, and the second excited S2 state is dominated by HOMO–LUMO double excitation with small oscillator strength. Upon photoexcitation and torsion along the reactive C13C14 double bond we observe bond length equalisation and a two-path deactivation mechanism in positive and negative torsion directions. The computed path is barrierless in positive direction while a small barrier exists for the opposite side. Comparative protonation studies suggest a charged glutamate E162 residue, with computed resonance Raman data in valuable agreement with experimental channelrhodopsin-2 data. The two negatively charged counter-ions and a positive lysine residue close to the retinal Schiff base terminus have the largest influence on the chromophore absorption wavelength.