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J Phys Chem B. 2008 Mar 20;112(11):3558-67. doi: 10.1021/jp0763681. Epub 2008 Feb 23.

Ultrafast time-resolved spectroscopy of xanthophylls at low temperature.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Connecticut, U-3060, 55 North Eagleville Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-3060, USA.


Many of the spectroscopic features and photophysical properties of xanthophylls and their role in energy transfer to chlorophyll can be accounted for on the basis of a three-state model. The characteristically strong visible absorption of xanthophylls is associated with a transition from the ground state S0 (1(1)Ag-) to the S2 (1(1)Bu+) excited state. The lowest lying singlet state denoted S1 (2(1)Ag-), is a state into which absorption from the ground state is symmetry forbidden. Ultrafast optical spectroscopic studies and quantum computations have suggested the presence of additional excited singlet states in the vicinity of S1 (2(1)Ag-) and S2 (1(1)Bu+). One of these is denoted S* and has been suggested in previous work to be associated with a twisted molecular conformation of the molecule in the S1 (2(1)Ag-) state. In this work, we present the results of a spectroscopic investigation of three major xanthophylls from higher plants: violaxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These molecules have systematically increasing extents of pi-electron conjugation from nine to eleven conjugated carbon-carbon double bonds. All-trans isomers of the molecules were purified by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and studied by steady-state and ultrafast time-resolved optical spectroscopy at 77 K. Analysis of the data using global fitting techniques has revealed the inherent spectral properties and ultrafast dynamics of the excited singlet states of each of the molecules. Five different global fitting models were tested, and it was found that the data are best explained using a kinetic model whereby photoexcitation results in the promotion of the molecule into the S2 (1(1)Bu+) state that subsequently undergoes decay to a vibrationally hot S1 (1(1)Ag-) state and with the exception of violaxanthin also to the S* state. The vibrationally hot S1 (1(1)Ag-) state then cools to a vibrationally relaxed S1 (2(1)Ag-) state in less than a picosecond. It was also found that a portion of the S* population is converted into S1 (2(1)Ag-) during deactivation, but this process and the relative yield of S* was found to depend on temperature, consistent with it being associated with a twisted conformation of the xanthophyll. The results of the global fitting suggest that subpopulations of twisted conformers of xanthophylls already exist in the ground state prior to photoexcitation.

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