Many biological electron-transfer reactions involve short-lived tryptophan radicals as key reactive intermediates. While these species are difficult to investigate, the recent photogeneration of a long-lived neutral tryptophan radical in two Pseudomonas aeruginosa azurin mutants (Az48W and ReAz108W) made it possible to characterize the electronic, vibrational, and magnetic properties of such species and their sensitivity to the molecular environment. Indeed, in Az48W the radical is embedded in the hydrophobic core while, in ReAz108W it is solvent-exposed. Here we use density functional theory and multiconfigurational perturbation theory to construct quantum-mechanics/molecular-mechanics models of Az48W* and ReAz108W* capable of reproducing specific features of their observed UV-vis, resonance Raman, and electron paramagnetic resonance spectra. The results show that the models can correctly replicate the spectral changes imposed by the two contrasting hydrophobic and hydrophilic environments. Most importantly, the same models can be employed to disentangle the molecular-level interactions responsible for such changes. It is found that the control of the hydrogen bonding between the tryptophan radical and a single specific surface water molecule in ReAz108W' represents an effective means of spectral modulation. Similarly, a specific electrostatic interaction between the radical moiety and a Val residue is found to control the Az48W* excitation energy. These modulations appear to be mediated by the increase in nitrogen negative charge (and consequent increase in hydrogen bonding) of the spectroscopic D-2 state with respect to the D-0 state of the chromophore. Finally, the same protein models are used to predict the relaxed Az481Ar* and ReAz108W* D-2 structures, showing that the effect of the environment on the corresponding fluorescence maxima must parallel that of Do absorption spectra.
Bernini, Caterina; Andruniów, Tadeusz; Olivucci, Massimo; Pogni, Rebecca; Basosi, Riccardo; and Sinicropi, Adalgisa, "Effects Of The Protein Environment On The Spectral Properties Of Tryptophan Radicals In Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Azurin" (2013). Chemistry Faculty Publications. 163.
Journal Of The American Chemical Society