Light-driven proton pumping in bacteriorhodopsin involves deprotonation of the retinylidene Schiff base during M formation and reprotonation during N formation as key steps. This study reports on the spectroscopic characterization of the bacteriorhodopsin mutant Tyr-57 → Asp (Y57D). The results reveal that although formation of the M intermediate and Schiff base deprotonation is blocked, the mutant still exhibits a significant level of light-driven proton translocation. The photocycle of Y57D involves formation of K and L intermediates accompanied by the normal chromophore isomerization and changes in the hydrogen bonding of Asp-96 and Asp-115. However, an additional Asp residue deprotonates during formation of the L intermediate along with a transmembrane α-helical structural change that normally occurs upon N formation. We postulate that proton transport in Y57D occurs through a redirected pathway that does not involve the deprotonation of the Schiff base. Chromophore isomerization, which normally results in the transfer of a proton from the Schiff base to Asp-85, instead causes the deprotonation of Asp-57 in Y57D, most likely through an interaction involving Asp-212. This deprotonation of Asp-57 causes the release of a proton into the extracellular medium. Reprotonation of Asp-57 occurs through the Schiff base reprotonation pathway, which consists of a hydrogen-bonded network of residues spanning from Asp-96 to Asp-212. The results also indicate that the transmembrane α- helical structural changes observed during N formation (Rothschild, K. J., Marti, T., Sonar, S., He, Y. W., Rath, P., Fischer, W., Bousche, O., and Khorana, H. G. (1993) J. Biol. Chem. 268, 27046-27052) do not require deprotonation of Asp-96 or of the Schiff base.