In the present contribution we address the study of the interaction of a flavonoid-derivative licochalcone A (LA) with human serum albumin (HSA). The application of circular dichroism, UV-Vis absorption, fluorescence and laser flash photolysis combined with molecular mechanics, molecular dynamics and quantum mechanical calculations of rotational strength afforded a clear picture of the modes of association of the LA neutral molecule to HSA, evidencing specific interactions with protein amino acids and their photophysical consequences. The drug is primarily associated in subdomain IIA where a strong interaction with Trp214 is established. At least two different positions of LA with respect to tryptophan are possible, one with the phenolic ring of the drug facing the aromatic ring of Trp214 and the other with the methoxyphenolic ring of LA in proximity to Trp214. In both cases LA is at ca. 4 Å from Trp214. This vicinity does not affect much the S1 singlet state deactivation of the bound drug, which exhibits a slightly higher fluorescence quantum yield and fluorescence lifetime on the order of that of the free molecule. The LA triplet lifetime appears to be somewhat shortened in this site. The secondary binding site is in subdomain IIIA. Here, the carbonyl group of LA experiences a strong H-bond with the OH-phenolic substituent of Tyr411. This interaction reduces substantially the LA molecular degrees of freedom, thereby determining a decrease of both radiative and nonradiative rate constants for decay of the singlet. The overall rigidity of the structure causes a lengthening of the triplet lifetime.
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