Phytochromes are biological photoswitches that interconvert between two parent states (Pr and Pfr). The transformation is initiated by photoisomerization of the tetrapyrrole chromophore, followed by a sequence of chromophore and protein structural changes. In the last step, a phytochrome-specific peptide segment (tongue) undergoes a secondary structure change, which in prokaryotic phytochromes is associated with the (de)activation of the output module. The focus of this work is the Pfr-To-Pr photoconversion of the bathy bacteriophytochrome Agp2 in which Pfr is the thermodynamically stable state. Using spectroscopic techniques, we studied the structural and functional consequences of substituting Arg211, Tyr165, His278, and Phe192 close to the biliverdin (BV) chromophore. In Pfr, substitutions of these residues do not affect the BV structure. The characteristic Pfr properties of bathy phytochromes, including the protonated propionic side chain of ring C (propC) of BV, are preserved. However, replacing Arg211 or Tyr165 blocks the photoconversion in the Meta-F state, prior to the secondary structure transition of the tongue and without deprotonation of propC. The Meta-F state of these variants displays low photochemical activity, but electronic excitation causes ultrafast alterations of the hydrogen bond network surrounding the chromophore. In all variants studied here, thermal back conversion from the photoproducts to Pfr is decelerated but substitution of His278 or Phe192 is not critical for the Pfr-To-Pr photoconversion. These variants do not impair deprotonation of propC or the α-helix/β-sheet transformation of the tongue during the Meta-F-To-Pr decay. Thus, we conclude that propC deprotonation is essential for restructuring of the tongue.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) via SFB1078 (B6, to P.H. and P.S.; B5, to F.B.; C2/C3, to M.A.M.; B7, to K.H.; Mercator Fellowship to I.S.) and the Cluster of Excellence UniCat (EXC314; to P.S., P.H., and M.A.M.). Further support was obtained from the Einstein Center of Catalysis (to P.H., P.S., F.V.E., and M.A.M.). I.S. gratefully acknowledges funding by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant 678169 “‘PhotoMutant”’). S.A. is supported by a PostDoc Fellowship from the Minerva Foundation.
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