The condensation of retinene1 with opsin to form rhodopsin is optimal at pH about 6, a pH which favors the condensation of retinene1 with sulfhydryl rather than with amino groups. The synthesis of rhodopsin, though unaffected by the less powerful sulfhydryl reagents, monoiodoacetic acid and its amide, is inhibited completely by p-chloromercuribenzoate (PCMB). This inhibition is reversed in part by the addition of glutathione. PCMB does not attack rhodopsin itself, nor does it react with retinene1. Its action in this system is confined to the —SH groups of opsin. Under some conditions the synthesis of rhodopsin is aided by the presence of such a sulfhydryl compound as glutathione, which helps to keep the —SH groups of opsin free and reduced.
By means of the amperometric silver titration of Kolthoff and Harris, it is shown that sulfhydryl groups are liberated in the bleaching of rhodopsin, two such groups for each retinene1 molecule that appears. This is true equally of rhodopsin from the retinas of cattle, frogs) and squid.
The exposure of new sulfhydryl groups adds an important element to the growing evidence that relates the bleaching of rhodopsin to protein denaturation. The place of sulfhydryl groups in the structure of rhodopsin is still uncertain. They may be concerned directly in binding the chromophore to opsin; or alternatively they may furnish hydrogen atoms for some reductive change by which the chromophore is formed from retinene1.
In the amperometric silver titration, the bleaching of rhodopsin yields directly an electrical variation. This phenomenon may have some fundamental connection with the role of rhodopsin in visual excitation, and may provide a model of the excitation process in general.