Vibronic structure of photosynthetic pigments probed by polarized two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy and ab initio calculations
Bacteriochlorophyll a (Bchl a) and chlorophyll a (Chl a) play important roles as light absorbers in photosynthetic antennae and participate in the initial charge-separation steps in photosynthetic reaction centers. Despite decades of study, questions remain about the interplay of electronic and vibrational states within the Q-band and its effect on the photoexcited dynamics. Here we report results of polarized two-dimensional electronic spectroscopic measurements, performed on penta-coordinated Bchl a and Chl a and their interpretation based on state-of-the-art time-dependent density functional theory calculations and vibrational mode analysis for spectral shapes. We find that the Q-band of Bchl a is comprised of two independent bands, that are assigned following the Gouterman model to Qx and Qy states with orthogonal transition dipole moments. However, we measure the angle to be ∼75°, a finding that is confirmed by ab initio calculations. The internal conversion rate constant from Qx to Qy is found to be 11 ps−1. Unlike Bchl a, the Q-band of Chl a contains three distinct peaks with different polarizations. Ab initio calculations trace these features back to a spectral overlap between two electronic transitions and their vibrational replicas. The smaller energy gap and the mixing of vibronic states result in faster internal conversion rate constants of 38–50 ps−1. We analyze the spectra of penta-coordinated Bchl a and Chl a to highlight the interplay between low-lying vibronic states and their relationship to photoinduced relaxation. Our findings shed new light on the photoexcited dynamics in photosynthetic systems where these chromophores are primary pigments.