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Femtosecond structural dynamics drives the trans/cis isomerization in photoactive yellow protein

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Science  06 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6286, pp. 725-729
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5081

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Visualizing a response to light

Many biological processes depend on detecting and responding to light. The response is often mediated by a structural change in a protein that begins when absorption of a photon causes isomerization of a chromophore bound to the protein. Pande et al. used x-ray pulses emitted by a free electron laser source to conduct time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography in the time range of 100 fs to 3 ms. This allowed for the real-time tracking of the trans-cis isomerization of the chromophore in photoactive yellow protein and the associated structural changes in the protein.

Science, this issue p. 725

Abstract

A variety of organisms have evolved mechanisms to detect and respond to light, in which the response is mediated by protein structural changes after photon absorption. The initial step is often the photoisomerization of a conjugated chromophore. Isomerization occurs on ultrafast time scales and is substantially influenced by the chromophore environment. Here we identify structural changes associated with the earliest steps in the trans-to-cis isomerization of the chromophore in photoactive yellow protein. Femtosecond hard x-ray pulses emitted by the Linac Coherent Light Source were used to conduct time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography on photoactive yellow protein microcrystals over a time range from 100 femtoseconds to 3 picoseconds to determine the structural dynamics of the photoisomerization reaction.

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