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Unveiling Structural Motions of a Highly Fluorescent Superphotoacid by Locking and Fluorinating the GFP Chromophore in Solution

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posted on 14.12.2017, 14:45 by Cheng Chen, Weimin Liu, Mikhail S. Baranov, Nadezhda S. Baleeva, Ilia V. Yampolsky, Liangdong Zhu, Yanli Wang, Alexandra Shamir, Kyril M. Solntsev, Chong Fang
Superphotoacidity involves ultrafast proton motions implicated in numerous chemical and biological processes. We used conformational locking and strategic addition of electron-withdrawing substituents to synthesize a new GFP chromophore analogue: p-HO-3,5-diF-BDI:BF2 (diF). It is highly fluorescent and exhibits excited-state proton transfer (ESPT) in various solvents, placing it among the strongest photoacids. Tunable femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy with unique resonance conditions and transient absorption are complementarily employed to elucidate the structural basis for superphotoacidity. We reveal a multistep ESPT reaction from diF to methanol with an initial proton dissociation on the ∼600 fs time scale that forms a charge-separated state, stabilized by solvation, and followed by a diffusion-controlled proton transfer on the ∼350 ps time scale. A ∼1580 cm–1 phenolic ring motion is uncovered to accompany ESPT before 1 ps. This study provides a vivid movie of the photoinduced proton dissociation of a superphotoacid with bright fluorescence, effectively bridging fundamental mechanistic insights to precise control of macroscopic functions.

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