Project: Research project

Grant Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Here we shall test the hypothesis that the retinal rod disk membrane lipid constituents govern visual function through their influences on signaling and amplification processes involving rhodopsin. Emphasis will be placed on the role of the membrane environment in modulating the Meta I-Meta II equilibrium, which is the signaling event in visual excitation. The retinal rod disk membranes are extraordinarily abundant in phospholipids containing highly polyunsaturated fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6-omega-3) and arachidonic acid (20:4-omega-6). Alterations of visual function are found to occur in essential fatty acid deficiency. Biophysical methods will characterize the influences of membrane lipids on the Meta I}Meta II transition of rhodopsin. Specific Aims are to apply a multidisciplinary approach to (1) identify the membrane lipids that function as agonists or antagonists of rhodopsin signaling; (2) elucidate the properties of membrane lipid bilayers that influence the photochemical function of rhodopsin; (3) illuminate the role of lipid polyunsaturation in rhodopsin activation; (4) discover how electrostatic properties of the membrane govern rhodopsin activation; and (5) establish how the membrane lipid influences on rhodopsin are amplified in visual signaling. A time-resolved multi-wavelength approach based on an optical multi-channel analyzer (OMA) will be used to study the kinetics and mechanism of rhodopsin activation. In addition, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR), fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), and plasmon waveguide resonance (PWR) spectroscopy will elucidate the retinal environment, protein conformation, and oligomerization or association of rhodopsin in the dark, Meta I, and Meta II states. A new flexible surface model (FSM) will provide a framework for understanding how the signaling function of rhodopsin is driven by non-specific properties of the membrane phospholipids, including membrane lipid curvature and hydrophobic forces within the bilayer. The FSM describes the lipid-protein interactions in terms of a balance of the curvature deformation energy, due to elastic stress/strain of the bilayer, with the solvation energy of the proteolipid interface. An additional aspect entails the interplay of the bilayer electrostatics including the surface charge density and the electrical double layer with the above bilayer properties. The influences of polyunsaturated membrane phospholipids on later amplification stages of the visual photoresponse will be investigated, including the binding and activation of the G protein (transducin) to photolyzed rhodopsin, and subsequent activation of cGMP phosphodiesterase. In this manner, a truly comprehensive picture of the triggering and amplification steps of the visual process will be provided at the membrane level in relation to dietary investigations of essential ?3 fatty acid deficiency in humans. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The proposed research will investigate the molecular basis for essential fatty acid deficiency in the retina, which is part of the brain and comprises a uniquely accessible model for the mammalian nervous system. Current knowledge indicates that long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from essential ?3 fatty acids play an important role in retinal and brain development involving human infants. Moreover, polyunsaturated lipids are involved in diseases such as Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, aging, and other physiological and pathological anomalies. The proposed in vitro studies of the influence of the membrane lipid bilayer on rhodopsin activity will test a specific framework for explaining the effects of essential fatty acid) deficiency in the visual system at the membrane level. This work is pertinent to the role of polyunsaturated lipids in the function and dysfunction of central nervous system of humans with attendant insights that may be of eventual therapeutic benefit.
Effective start/end date4/1/083/31/13


  • National Institutes of Health: $374,862.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $387,202.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $371,556.00


  • Medicine(all)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.