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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jan 3;109(1):167-72. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1113599108. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Energetics of short hydrogen bonds in photoactive yellow protein.

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  • 1Career-Path Promotion Unit for Young Life Scientists, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Konoe-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Recent neutron diffraction studies of photoactive yellow protein (PYP) proposed that the H bond between protonated Glu46 and the chromophore [ionized p-coumaric acid (pCA)] was a low-barrier H bond (LBHB). Using the atomic coordinates of the high-resolution crystal structure, we analyzed the energetics of the short H bond by two independent methods: electrostatic pK(a) calculations and a quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) approach. (i) In the QM/MM optimized geometry, we reproduced the two short H-bond distances of the crystal structure: Tyr42-pCA (2.50 Å) and Glu46-pCA (2.57 Å). However, the H atoms obviously belonged to the Tyr or Glu moieties, and were not near the midpoint of the donor and acceptor atoms. (ii) The potential-energy curves of the two H bonds resembled those of standard asymmetric double-well potentials, which differ from those of LBHB. (iii) The calculated pK(a) values for Glu46 and pCA were 8.6 and 5.4, respectively. The pK(a) difference was unlikely to satisfy the prerequisite for LBHB. (iv) The LBHB in PYP was originally proposed to stabilize the ionized pCA because deprotonated Arg52 cannot stabilize it. However, the calculated pK(a) of Arg52 and QM/MM optimized geometry suggested that Arg52 was protonated on the protein surface. The short H bond between Glu46 and ionized pCA in the PYP ground state could be simply explained by electrostatic stabilization without invoking LBHB.

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