Solid-state 13C MAS NMR spectra were obtained for dark-adapted bacteriorhodopsin (bR) labeled with [4′−13C]Tyr. Difference spectra (labeled minus natural abundance) taken at pH values between 2 and 12, and temperatures between 20 and −90 °C, exhibit a single signal centered at 156 ppm, indicating that the 11 tyrosines are protonated over a wide pH range. However, at pH 13, a second line appears in the spectrum with an isotropic shift of 165 ppm. Comparisons with solution and solid-state spectra of model compounds suggest that this second line is due to the formation of tyrosinate. Integrated intensities indicate that about half of the tyrosines are deprotonated at pH 13. This result demonstrates that deprotonated tyrosines in a membrane protein are detectable with solid-state NMR and that neither the bR568 nor the bR555 form of bR present in the dark-adapted state contains a tyrosinate at pH values between 2 and 12. Deprotonation of a single tyrosine in bR56S would account for 3.6% of the total tyrosine signal, which would be detectable with the current signal-to-noise ratio. We observe a slight heterogeneity and subtle line-width changes in the tyrosine signal between pH 7 and pH 12, which we interpret to be due to protein environmental effects (such as changes in hydrogen bonding) rather than complete deprotonation of tyrosine residue(s).
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