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Molecular mechanisms of spectral tuning and excited-state decay in phytochrome photoreceptors

Maximowitsch, Egle

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Most organisms on earth are able to sense light, to which they adapt their behavior by using photoreceptor proteins containing light-absorbing chromophores. Phytochrome photoreceptors contain a covalently-attached tetrapyrrole chromophore and switch between two thermally stable forms, a red-absorbing (Pr) and a far-red-absorbing (Pfr) state. Although phytochromes have been studied for more than fifty years, the molecular mechanisms defining their photoinduced properties are not fully understood, hampering the efficient engineering of phytochrome-based molecular tools. The computational study presented in this thesis combines quantum chemical calculations and molecular dynamics simulations in order to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of spectral tuning and excited-state decay in phytochromes. The calculations have demonstrated that the spectral red shift of the Pfr state is induced by the hydrogen bond formation between the chromophore and a highly conserved aspartate. Here it is also shown how the formation of this hydrogen bond is coupled to dynamics of other active-site interactions. In addition, the chromophore deprotonation by a protein residue is proposed to contribute to the absorption at the Q-band blue shoulder in the Pr-state spectrum. For the first time, the photoinduced electron transfer coupled to proton transfer was characterized in phytochromes. These charge transfer pathways may contribute to the excited-state decay by quenching fluorescence and influencing photoproduct formation. The discoveries provided in this thesis will facilitate further phytochrome investigations and the rational design of phytochrome-based fluorescent markers and optogenetic tools.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Domratcheva, Dr. Tatiana
Date of thesis defense: 1 April 2019
Date Deposited: 23 May 2019 06:28
Date: 2020
Faculties / Institutes: The Faculty of Bio Sciences > Dean's Office of the Faculty of Bio Sciences
Subjects: 500 Natural sciences and mathematics
Controlled Keywords: phytochrome, charge transfer, electron transfer, spectral tuning, spectral shift
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