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J Am Chem Soc. 2002 Jun 19;124(24):6818-9.

Ultrafast decay of electronically excited singlet cytosine via a pi,pi* to n(O),pi* state switch.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK.


Singlet fluorescence lifetimes of adenosine, cytidine, guanosine, and thymidine, determined by femtosecond pump-probe spectroscopy (Pecourt, J.-M. L.; Peon, J.; Kohler, B. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2000, 122, 9348. Pecourt, J.-M. L.; Peon, J.; Kohler, B. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2001, 123, 10370), show that the excited states produced by 263 nm light in these nucleosides decay in the subpicosecond range (290-720 fs). Ultrafast radiationless decay to the ground state greatly reduces the probability of photochemical damage. In this work we present a theoretical study of isolated cytosine, the chromophore of cytidine. The experimental lifetime of 720 fs indicates that there must be an ultrafast decay channel for this species. We have documented the possible decay channels and approximate energetics, using a valence-bond derived analysis to rationalize the structural details of the paths. The mechanism favored by our calculations and the experimental data involves (1) a two-mode decay coordinate composed of initial bond length inversion followed by internal vibrational energy redistribution (IVR) to populate a carbon pyramidalization mode, (2) a state switch between the pi,pi* and nO,pi* (excitation from oxygen lone pair) excited states, and (3) decay to the ground state through a conical intersention. A second decay path through the nN,pi* state (excitation from the nitrogen lone pair), with a higher barrier, involves out-of-plane bending of the amino substituent.

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