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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Ionization potentials of fluoroindoles and the origin of nonexponential tryptophan fluorescence decay in proteins.

This work reports an explanation for the unusual monoexponential fluorescence decay of 5-fluorotryptophan (5FTrp) in single-Trp mutant proteins [Broos, J.; Maddalena, F.; Hesp, B. H. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004, 126, 22-23] and substantially clarifies the origin of the ubiquitous nonexponential fluorescence decay of tryptophan in proteins. Our results strongly suggest that the extent of nonexponential fluorescence decay is governed primarily by the efficiency of electron transfer (ET) quenching by a nearby amide group in the peptide bond. Fluoro substitution increases the ionization potential (IP) of indole, thereby suppressing the ET rate, leading to a longer average lifetime and therefore a more homogeneous decay. We report experimental IPs for a number of substituted indoles including 5-fluoroindole, 5-fluoro-3-methylindole, and 6-fluoroindole, along with accurate ab initio calculations of the IPs for these and 20 related molecules. The results predict the IP of 5-fluorotryptophan to be 0.19 eV higher than that of tryptophan. 5-Fluoro substitution does not measurably alter the excitation-induced change in permanent dipole moment nor does it change the fluorescent state from 1La to 1Lb. In combination with electronic structure information this argues that the increased IP and the decreased excitation energy of the 1La state, together 0.3 eV, are solely responsible for the strong reduction of electron transfer quenching. 6-Fluoro substitution is predicted to increase the IP by a mere 0.09 eV. In agreement with our conclusions, the fluorescence decay curves of 6-fluorotryptophan-containing proteins are well fit using only two decay times compared to three required for Trp.[1]


  1. Ionization potentials of fluoroindoles and the origin of nonexponential tryptophan fluorescence decay in proteins. Liu, T., Callis, P.R., Hesp, B.H., de Groot, M., Buma, W.J., Broos, J. J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2005) [Pubmed]
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