Low-Energy Tautomers and Conformers of Neutral and Protonated Arginine

The relative stabilities of zwitterionic and canonical forms of neutral arginine and of its protonated derivative were studied by using ab initio electronic structure methods. Trial structures were first identified at the PM3 level of theory with use of a genetic algorithm to systematically vary geometrical parameters. Further geometry optimizations of these structures were performed at the MP2 and B3LYP levels of theory with basis sets of the 6-31++G** quality. The final energies were determined at the CCSD/6-31++G** level and corrected for thermal effects determined at the B3LYP level. Two new nonzwitterionic structures of the neutral were identified, and one of them is the lowest energy structure found so far. The five lowest energy structures of neutral arginine are all nonzwitterionic in nature and are clustered within a narrow energy range of 2.3 kcal/mol. The lowest energy zwitterion structure is less stable than the lowest nonzwitterion structure by 4.0 kcal/mol. For no level of theory is a zwitterion structure suggested to be the global minimum. The calculated proton affinity of 256.3 kcal/mol and gas-phase basicity of 247.8 kcal/mol of arginine are in reasonable agreement with the measured values of 251.2 and 240.6 kcal/mol, respectively. The calculated vibrational characteristics of the low-energy structures of neutral arginine provide an alternative interpretation of the IR-CRLAS spectrum (Chapo et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1998, 120, 12956−12957).