Intramolecular Proton Transfer Controls Protein Structural Changes in Phytochrome

Anastasia Kraskov, Anh Duc Nguyen, Jan Goerling, David Buhrke, Francisco Velazquez Escobar, Maria Fernandez Lopez, Norbert Michael, Luisa Sauthof, Andrea Schmidt, Patrick Piwowarski, Yang Yang, Till Stensitzki, Suliman Adam, Franz Bartl, Igor Schapiro, Karsten Heyne, Friedrich Siebert, Patrick Scheerer, Maria Andrea Mroginski, Peter Hildebrandt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1023-1037
Number of pages15
Issue number9
StatePublished - 10 Mar 2020

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Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.


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