Photosynthetic reaction centers (RCs) from Rhodobacter sphaeroides were engineered to vary the electronic properties of a key tyrosine close to an essential electron transfer component (M210) via its replacement with site-specific genetically encoded noncanonical amino acid tyrosine analogs. High fidelity of noncanonical amino acid incorporation was verified with mass spectrometry and x-ray crystallography and demonstrated that RC variants exhibit no significant structural alterations relative to wild-type. Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy indicates the excited primary electron donor, P*, decays via an approximately 4 ps and 20 ps population to produce the charge-separated state P+HA- in all variants. Global analysis indicates that in the 4 ps population P+HA- forms through a 2-step process P* –> P+BA– –> P+HA-, while in the 20 ps population it forms via a 1-step P* –> P+HA– superexchange mechanism. The percentage of P* population that decays via the superexchange route varies from approximately 25% to 45% among variants while in wild-type this percentage is approximately 15%. Increases in the P* population which decays via superexchange correlates with increases in free energy of the P+BA– intermediate caused by a given M210 tyrosine analog. This was experimentally estimated through resonance Stark spectroscopy, redox titrations, and near-infrared absorption measurements. As the most energetically perturbative variant, 3-nitrotyrosine at M210 creates an approximately 110 meV increase in the free energy of P+BA– along with a dramatic diminution of the 1030 nm transient absorption band indicative of P+BA– formation. Collectively this work indicates the tyrosine at M210 tunes the mechanism of primary electron transfer in the RC.
Supporting Information 20210527 ChemRxiv