A Designed Protein Binding-Pocket to Control Photochemical Isomerization

ESIPT involves a photochemical isomerization and creates the opportunity for the emission of two distinct wavelengths of light from a single fluorophore. The selectivity between these two wavelengths of emission is dependent on the environment around the fluorophore and suggests the possibility for ratiometric monitoring of protein microenvironments. Unfortunately, nonspecific binding of ESIPT fluorophores does not often lead to dramatic changes in the ratio between the two wavelengths of emission. A protein binding pocket was designed to selectively discriminate between the two channels of emission available to an ESIPT fluorophore. More broadly, this work demonstrates that specific interactions between the protein and the fluorophore are essential to realize strong ratiometric differences between the two possible wavelengths of emission. The design strategies proposed here lead to an ESIPT fluorophore that can discern subtle differences in the interface between two proteins.