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Toward Molecular-Level Characterization of Photoinduced Decarboxylation of the Green Fluorescent Protein: Accessibility of the Charge-Transfer States

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journal contribution
posted on 12.06.2012, 00:00 by Bella L. Grigorenko, Alexander V. Nemukhin, Dmitry I. Morozov, Igor V. Polyakov, Ksenia B. Bravaya, Anna I. Krylov
Irradiation of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) by intense violet or UV light leads to decarboxylation of the Glu222 side chain in the vicinity of the chromophore (Chro). This phenomenon is utilized in optical highlighters, such as photoactivatable GFP (PA-GFP). Using state-of-the-art quantum chemical calculations, we investigate the feasibility of the mechanism proposed in the experimental studies [van Thor et al. Nature Struct. Biol. 2002, 9, 37–41; Bell et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2003, 125, 37–41]. It was hypothesized that a primary event of this photoconversion involves population of a charge-transfer (CT) state via either the first excited state S1 when using longer wavelength (404 and 476 nm) or a higher excited state when using higher energy radiation (254 and 280 nm). Based on the results of electronic structure calculations, we identify these critical CT states (produced by electron transfer from Glu to electronically excited Chro) and show that they are accessible via different routes, i.e., either directly, by one-photon absorption, or through a two-step excitation via S1. The calculations are performed for model systems representing the chromophore and the key nearby residues using two complementary approaches: (i) the multiconfigurational quasidegenerate perturbation theory of second order with the occupation restricted multiple active space scheme for configuration selection in the multiconfigurational self-consistent field reference; and (ii) the single-reference configuration interaction singles method with perturbative doubles that does not involve active space selection. We examined electronic transitions with nonzero oscillator strengths in the UV and visible range between the electronic states involving the Chro and Glu residues. Both methods predict the existence of CT states with nonzero oscillator strength in the UV range and a local excited state of the chromophore accessible via S1 that may lead to the target CT state. The results suggest several possible scenarios for the primary photoconversion event. We also demonstrate that the point mutation Thr203His exploited in PA-GFP results in shifting the light wavelength to access the CT up to 20 nm, which suggests a possibility of a rational design of photoactivatable proteins in silico.