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Stability and Optical Absorption of a Comprehensive Virtual Library of Minimal Eumelanin Oligomer Models

revised on 10.05.2021, 16:53 and posted on 11.05.2021, 09:42 by jun wang, Lluís Blancafort
Eumelanin is the black biopolymer responsible for photoprotection in living organisms. Lack of knowledge of the atomic-level structure limits understanding of its function and exploitation of its potential in material science. To overcome these limitations, we present a systematic density functional theory study of the stability and optical properties of a library of 830 dimers of 5,6-dihydroxyindole (DHI), which are minimal models of eumelanin oligomers. Our aim is to understand the principles that govern the formation of DHI oligomers, relate the optical properties of the dimers with their stability, and establish their possible role in the photophysics of the biopolymer. From the structural point of view, we find a preference for oxidized over reduced and cyclic over linear structures, which speaks in favor of polycyclic graphite-like structures for the larger oligomers. We present an electrocyclization mechanism leading to the cyclic structures. We also find that besides the widely considered quinone and quinone methide oxidation patterns where two heteroatoms per DHI fragment are oxidized, dimers with one or three oxidized sites per fragment and an interfragment double bond are also stable and may be present in eumelanin. As far as the optical properties are concerned, some oxidized dimers combine relative stability with absorption energies as low as 1.3 eV. Such fragments may be present as substructures in the naturally found oligomers and might have a relevant contribution to the absorption spectrum of the biopolymer. In addition to these insights into the struc-tural and optical properties of the oligomers, we introduce a new classification scheme and a representative set of 53 dimers combining thermodynamic stability with chemical diversity.


Unraveling the Photoprotecting Mechanism of Melanin - From a Library of Fragments to Simulation of Spectra and Function

European Commission

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PID-2019-104654GB-I00, Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación, y Universidades (Spain)


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Universitat de Girona



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Declaration of Conflict of Interest

No conflict to declare

Version Notes

Version 01 to be submitted for review.

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