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Short Hydrogen Bond merged.pdf (8.02 MB)

Unusual Spectroscopic and Electric Field Sensitivity of a Chromophore with Short Hydrogen Bond: GFP and PYP as Model Systems

submitted on 24.08.2020 and posted on 24.08.2020 by Chi-Yun Lin, Steven Boxer

Short hydrogen bonds, with heavy-atom distances less than 2.7 Å, are believed to exhibit proton delocalization and their possible role in catalysis has been widely debated. While spectroscopic and/or structural methods are usually employed to study the degree of proton delocalization, ambiguities still arise and no direct information on the corresponding potential energy surface is obtained. Here we apply an external electric field to perturb the short hydrogen bond(s) within a collection of green fluorescent protein S65T/H148D variants and photoactive yellow protein mutants, where the chromophore participates in the short hydrogen bond(s) and serves as an optical probe of the proton position. As the proton is charged, its position may shift in response to the external electric field, and the chromophore’s electronic absorption can thus reflect the ease of proton transfer. The results suggest that low-barrier hydrogen bonds are not present within these proteins even when proton affinities between donor and acceptor are closely matched. Exploiting the chromophores as pre-calibrated electrostatic probes, the covalency of short hydrogen bonds as a non-electrostatic component was also revealed. No clear evidence was found for a possible contribution of unusually large polarizabilities of short hydrogen bonds due to proton delocalization; a theoretical framework for this interesting phenomenon is developed.


National Institutes of Health GM118044

National Science Foundation CHE-1740645


Email Address of Submitting Author


Stanford University


United States

ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest