Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 10, 2004
Previous Article Next Article

Protonation effect on the electronic spectrum of tryptophan in the gas phase

Author affiliations


In this work we investigate how the presence of a proton changes the electronic spectrum of tryptophan (Trp). For the S0–S1 transition of protonated Trp gas phase results can be compared to theoretical calculations. Trp ions have been formed by electro-spray ionization, stored in a cooled Paul trap, mass-selected and dissociated by resonant photoexcitation by ns UV laser pulses. The S0–S1 spectrum shows a distinct onset, a gap and a broad rise at higher energies. Interestingly the absorption of protonated Trp is in the same energy range as the S0–S1 transition of neutral Trp. For calculation of the relative tautomer and conformer energies for the ground and the excited states a combined density functional theory/multi-reference configuration interaction approach was used. The proton is put into different positions: The 1 (1-H+–Trp) and the 3 positions in indole and the N terminal (N–H+–Trp). Protonation at the N terminal forms the most stable tautomer. Attaching the proton to position 1 of the indole chromophore results in a very high energy. When the proton is approached in position 3 of the indole chromophore a chemical reaction takes place and a bridged isomer is formed (BI–H+). This isomer lies only 400 cm−1 above the N–H+–Trp form, but the activation barrier for the protonation is expected to be high. We calculated the excited states of the most stable neutral conformer, the neutral precursor conformer for the N–H+–Trp tautomer, the 1-H+–Trp and the N–H+–Trp tautomers and the BI–H+ isomer. The comparison of all S0–S1 transition energies shows that the S1 state, here the Lb state, is not sensitive to the protonation, the site of protonation or even the isomerization. According to theory, the experimentally observed protonated Trp is most probably the N–H+–Trp tautomer. For this tautomer the agreement of theoretical and experimental S0–S1 energies is excellent (3.5 nm). Its energetic position of the La state is blue-shifted and strongly structure-sensitive in all protonated species.

Back to tab navigation

Article information

19 Dec 2003
27 Feb 2004
First published
07 Apr 2004

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2004,6, 2633-2640
Article type

Protonation effect on the electronic spectrum of tryptophan in the gas phase

D. Nolting, C. Marian and R. Weinkauf, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2004, 6, 2633
DOI: 10.1039/B316669D

Social activity

Search articles by author