The effect of different conformations and substitutions on the photoisomerization of a retinal protonated Schiff base model is investigated by nonadiabatic molecular dynamics simulations. Three groups of retinal analogues are studied: (i) conformational isomers, (ii) methyl-substituted retinals, and (iii) C11-C12 bond locked retinals. In total 259 trajectories are calculated in the gas phase starting from different initial conditions. The effect on bond selectivity, the directionality of the isomerization, excited-state lifetime, and product distribution is derived from the ensemble of trajectories. Among the group of four isomers (9-, 11-, 13-cis, and all-trans) the 11-cis analogue is the most selective in terms of isomerizing double bond, while the other three produce a mixture of isomers. However, there is no preference for isomerization directionality and the product formation for the 11-cis isomer. In the group of analogues with different methylation patterns, it is found that a methyl group at position C10 can introduce unidirectionality. This methyl group also speeds the photoisomerization. In case of the analogue that is demethylated at the positions C10 and C13, all trajectories isomerize successfully from cis to trans conformation. The three C11-C12 bond locked retinals are found to have very different properties, which depend on the number of methylene units bridging this bond. The five-membered ring imposes a too-large restriction; hence, all trajectories remain on the excited state in the simulation time of 300 fs. The seven-membered ring is more flexible with preference for isomerization of the C9-C10 bond. Interestingly, the eight-membered ring leads to the fastest isomerization time and full directionality of C11-C12 bond isomerization. The trends observed in these simulations can help to understand whether the effects are intrinsic to the chromophore or are induced by the protein environment, by comparing to the trends from experiment. Furthermore, the derived understanding can support design of molecular motors to achieve high product yield and unidirectionality.
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© 2016 American Chemical Society.