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Quantum chemistry study of the multiphoton absorption in enhanced green fluorescent protein at the single amino acid residue level

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Two- and three-photon absorption spectra of enhanced green fluorescent proteins are calculated, which indicates a good correlation of multiphoton absorption intensity with electrostatic and induction interaction energies.


The chromophore (CRO) of fluorescent proteins (FPs) is embedded in a complex environment that is a source of specific interactions with the CRO. Understanding how these interactions influence FPs spectral properties is important for a directed design of novel markers with desired characteristics. In this work, we apply computational chemistry methods to gain insight into one-, two- and three-photon absorption (1PA, 2PA, 3PA) tuning in enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). To achieve this goal, we built EGFP models differing in: i) number and position of hydrogen-bonds (h-bonds) donors to the CRO and ii) the electric field, as approximated by polarizable force field, acting on the CRO. We find that h-bonding to the CRO's phenolate oxygen results in stronger one- and multiphoton absorption. The brighter absorption can be also achieved by creating more positive electric field near the CRO's phenolate moiety. Interestingly, while individual CRO – environment h-bonds usually enhance 1PA and 2PA, it takes a few h-bond donors to enhance 3PA. Clearly, response of the absorption intensity to many-body effects depends on the excitation mechanism. We further employ symmetry-adapted perturbation theory (SAPT) to reveal excellent (2PA) and good (3PA) correlation of multiphoton intensity with electrostatic and induction interaction energies. This points to importance of accounting for mutual CRO – environment polarization in quantitative calculations of absorption spectra in FPs.

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