Site-directed deuterium NMR spectroscopy is a valuable tool to study the structural dynamics of biomolecules in cases where solution NMR is inapplicable. Solid-state (2)H NMR spectral studies of aligned membrane samples of rhodopsin with selectively labeled retinal provide information on structural changes of the chromophore in different protein states. Moreover (2)H NMR relaxation time measurements allow one to study the dynamics of the ligand during the transition from the inactive to the active state. Here we describe the methodological aspects of solid-state (2)H NMR spectroscopy for functional studies of rhodopsin, with an emphasis on the dynamics of the retinal cofactor. We provide complete protocols for the preparation of NMR samples of rhodopsin with 11-cis-retinal selectively deuterated at the methyl groups in aligned membranes. In addition we review optimized conditions for trapping the rhodopsin photointermediates; and we address the challenging problem of trapping the signaling state of rhodopsin in aligned membrane films.
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