UV absorption spectra of DNA bases in the 350–190 nm range: assignment and state specific analysis of solvation effects†
The theoretical assignment of electronic spectra of polyatomic molecules is a challenging problem that requires the specification of the character of a large number of electronic states. We propose a procedure for automatically determining the character of electronic transitions and apply it to the study of UV spectra of DNA bases in the gas phase and in the aqueous environment. The procedure is based on the computation of electronic wave function overlaps and accounts for an extensive sampling of nuclear geometries. Novelties of this work are the theoretical assignment of the electronic spectra of DNA bases up to 190 nm and a state specific analysis of solvation effects. By accounting for different effects contributing to the total solvent shift we obtained a good agreement between the computed and experimental spectra. Effects of vibrational averaging, temperature and solvent-induced structural changes shift excitation energies to lower values. Solvent–solute electrostatic interactions are state specific and strongly destabilize nRyd states, and to lesser extent nπ* and πRyd states. Altogether, this results in the stabilization of ππ* states and destabilization of nπ*, πRyd and nRyd states in solution.