Volume 11 (2015) Pages 61-66
How do we distinguish colors? Humans possess three color pigments; red-, green-, and blue-sensitive proteins, which have maximum absorbance (λmax) at 560, 530, and 420 nm, respectively, and contribute to normal human trichromatic vision (RGB). Each color pigments consists of a different opsin protein bound to a common chromophore molecule, 11-cis-retinal, whereas different chromophore-protein interactions allow preferential absorption of different colors. However, detailed experimental structural data to explain the molecular basis of spectral tuning of color pigments are lacking, mainly because of the difficulty in sample preparation. We thus started structural studies of primate color visual pigments using low-temperature Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, which needs only 0.3 mg protein for a single measurement. Here we report the first structural data of monkey red- (MR) and green- (MG) sensitive pigments, in which the information about the protein, retinal chromophore, and internal water molecules is contained. Molecular mechanism of color discrimination between red and green pigments will be discussed based on the structural data by FTIR spectroscopy.