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Biophys J. 2001 Apr;80(4):1973-85.

Molecular heterogeneity of O-acetylserine sulfhydrylase by two-photon excited fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy.

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Istituto Nazionale per la Fisica della Materia, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Milano 20133, Italy.


O-acetylserine sulfhydrylase, a homo-dimeric enzyme from Salmonella typhimurium, covalently binds one pyridoxal 5'-phosphate molecule per subunit as a fluorescent coenzyme. Different tautomers of the Schiff base between the coenzyme and lysine 41 generate structured absorption and fluorescence spectra upon one-photon excitation. We investigated the protein population heterogeneity by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and lifetime techniques upon two-photon excitation. We sampled the fluorescence intensity from a small number of molecules (approximately 10) and analyzed the distribution of photon counts to separately determine the number and the fluorescence brightness of excited protein molecules. The changes in the average number of molecules and in the fluorescence brightness with the excitation wavelength indicate the presence of at least two fluorescent species, with two-photon excitation maxima at 660 and 800 nm. These species have been identified as the enolimine and ketoenamine tautomers of the protein-coenzyme internal aldimine. Their relative abundance is estimated to be 4:1, whereas the ratio of their two-photon cross sections is reversed with respect to the single-photon excitation case. Consistent results are obtained from the measurement of the lifetime decays, which are sensitive to the excited-state heterogeneity. At least two components were detected, with lifetimes of approximately 2.5 and 0.5 ns. The lifetimes are very close to the values measured in bulk solutions upon one-photon excitation and attributed to the ketoenamine tautomer and to a dipolar species formed upon proton dissociation in the excited state.

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