At low pH, protons from the external, bulk solution can protonate the phenoxide group of the p-HBDI chromophore in wild-type green fluorescent protein (wtGFP) and its mutants, and likely continue to tentatively protonate the phenol hydroxyl group of the same chromophores. Because the protonated GFP chromophore is a transient, we prepare the stable p-trimethylammonium analogues (2a and 2b) of the GFP chromophore to mimic it and explore their properties. What we found is that the p-trimethylammonium analogues of the GFP chromophore have the highly electrophilic amidine carbon, blue-shifted electronic absorption, smaller molar absorptivity, smaller fluorescent quantum yield, and faster E-Z thermoisomerization rate. The amidine carbon of the p-trimethylammonium analogue (2b) of the GFP chromophore is the only site that is attacked by very weak nucleophile of water, resulting in ring-opening of the imidazolinone moiety. The half-life of its decay rate in D2O is around 33 days. Actually, acid-catalyzed hydrolysis of p-HBDI also results in ring-opening of the imidazolinone moiety. The ratio of the acid-catalyzed hydrolysis rate constants [kobs(p-HBDI)/kobs(1b)] between p-HBDI and 1b (p-dimethylammonium analogue of the GFP chromophore) is dramatically increased from 0.30 at pH = 2 to 0.63 at pH = 0. This is the evidence that more and more phenol hydroxyl groups of p-HBDI are tentatively protonated in a low-pH aqueous solution and that accelerates hydrolysis of p-HBDI in the way similar to the quaternary ammonium derivatives 2a and 2b in water. With this view point, 2a and 2b still can partially mimic the cationic p-HBDI with the protonated phenol hydroxyl group. Implication of the experiment is that the amidine carbon of the chromophore in wtGFP and its mutants at very low pH should be highly electrophilic. Whether ring-opening of the imidazolinone moiety of the GFP chromophore would occur or not depends on if water molecules can reach the amidine carbon of the chromophore inside wtGFP and its mutants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Drug Discovery
- Organic Chemistry