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Biochemistry. 2009 Dec 8;48(48):11458-69. doi: 10.1021/bi901196x.

The role of key amino acids in the photoactivation pathway of the Synechocystis Slr1694 BLUF domain.

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  • 1Biophysics Group, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Sciences, VU University, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


BLUF (blue light sensing using FAD) domains belong to a novel group of blue light sensing receptor proteins found in microorganisms. We have assessed the role of specific aromatic and polar residues in the Synechocystis Slr1694 BLUF protein by investigating site-directed mutants with substitutions Y8W, W91F, and S28A. The W91F and S28A mutants formed the red-shifted signaling state upon blue light illumination, whereas in the Y8W mutant, signaling state formation was abolished. The W91F mutant shows photoactivation dynamics that involve the successive formation of FAD anionic and neutral semiquinone radicals on a picosecond time scale, followed by radical pair recombination to result in the long-lived signaling state in less than 100 ps. The photoactivation dynamics and quantum yield of signaling state formation were essentially identical to those of wild type, which indicates that only one significant light-driven electron transfer pathway is available in Slr1694, involving electron transfer from Y8 to FAD without notable contribution of W91. In the S28A mutant, the photoactivation dynamics and quantum yield of signaling state formation as well as dark recovery were essentially the same as in wild type. Thus, S28 does not play an essential role in the initial hydrogen bond switching reaction in Slr1694 beyond an influence on the absorption spectrum. In the Y8W mutant, two deactivation branches upon excitation were identified: the first involves a neutral semiquinone FADH(*) that was formed in approximately 1 ps and recombines in 10 ps and is tentatively assigned to a FADH(*)-W8(*) radical pair. The second deactivation branch forms FADH(*) in 8 ps and evolves to FAD(*-) in 200 ps, which recombines to the ground state in about 4 ns. In the latter branch, W8 is tentatively assigned as the FAD redox partner as well. Overall, the results are consistent with a photoactivation mechanism for BLUF domains where signaling state formation proceeds via light-driven electron and proton transfer from Y8 to FAD, followed by a hydrogen bond rearrangement and radical pair recombination.

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