Describing two-photon absorptivity of fluorescent proteins with a new vibronic coupling mechanism.
ABSTRACT: Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are widely used in two-photon microscopy as genetically encoded probes. Understanding the physical basics of their two-photon absorption (2PA) properties is therefore crucial for creation of two-photon brighter mutants. On the other hand, it can give us better insight into molecular interactions of the FP chromophore with a complex protein environment. It is known that, compared to the one-photon absorption spectrum, where the pure electronic transition is the strongest, the 2PA spectrum of a number of FPs is dominated by a vibronic transition. The physical mechanism of such intensity redistribution is not understood. Here, we present a new physical model that explains this effect through the "Herzberg-Teller"-type vibronic coupling of the difference between the permanent dipole moments in the ground and excited states (??) to the bond-length-alternating coordinate. This model also enables us to quantitatively describe a large variability of the 2PA peak intensity in a series of red FPs with the same chromophore through the interference between the "Herzberg-Teller" and Franck-Condon terms.
Project description:Multi-photon absorption properties, particularly two-photon absorption (2PA), of fluorescent proteins (FPs) have made them attractive tools in deep-tissue clinical imaging. Although the diversity of photophysical properties for FPs is wide, there are some caveats predominant among the existing FP variants that need to be overcome, such as low quantum yields and small 2PA cross-sections. From a computational perspective, Salem et al. (2016) suggested the inclusion of non-canonical amino acids in the chromophore of the red fluorescent protein DsRed, through the replacement of the tyrosine amino acid. The 2PA properties of these new non-canonical chromophores (nCCs) were determined in vacuum, i.e., without taking into account the protein environment. However, in the computation of response properties, such as 2PA cross-sections, the environment plays an important role. To account for environment and protein-chromophore coupling effects, quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) schemes can be useful. In this work, the polarizable embedding (PE) model is employed along with time-dependent density functional theory to describe the 2PA properties of a selected set of chromophores made from non-canonical amino acids as they are embedded in the DsRed protein matrix. The objective is to provide insights to determine whether or not the nCCs could be developed and, thus, generate a new class of FPs. Results from this investigation show that within the DsRed environment, the nCC 2PA cross-sections are diminished relative to their values in vacuum. However, further studies toward understanding the 2PA limit of these nCCs using different protein environments are needed.
Project description:Directed evolution has been used extensively to improve the properties of a variety of fluorescent proteins (FPs). Evolutionary strategies, however, have not yet been used to improve the two-photon absorption (2PA) properties of a fluorescent protein, properties that are important for two-photon imaging in living tissues, including the brain. Here we demonstrate a technique for quantitatively screening the two-photon excited fluorescence (2PEF) efficiency and 2PA cross section of tens of thousands of mutant FPs expressed in E. coli colonies. We use this procedure to move EGFP through three rounds of two-photon directed evolution leading to new variants showing up to a 50% enhancement in peak 2PA cross section and brightness within the near-IR tissue transparency wavelength range.
Project description:Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are indispensable markers for two-photon imaging of live tissue, especially in the brains of small model organisms. The quantity of physiologically relevant data collected, however, is limited by heat-induced damage of the tissue due to the high intensities of the excitation laser. We seek to minimize this damage by developing FPs with improved brightness. Among FPs with the same chromophore structure, the spectral properties can vary widely due to differences in the local protein environment. Using a physical model that describes the spectra of FPs containing the anionic green FP (GFP) chromophore, we predict that those that are blue-shifted in one-photon absorption will have stronger peak two-photon absorption cross sections. Following this prediction, we present 12 blue-shifted GFP homologues and demonstrate that they are up to 2.5 times brighter than the commonly used enhanced GFP (EGFP).
Project description:The smallest and most strained member of a family of ?-conjugated cyclic porphyrin oligomers was synthesized by using pentapyridyl templates based on ferrocene and corannulene. Both templates are effective for directing the synthesis of the butadiyne-linked cyclic pentamer, despite the fact that the radii of their N5 donor sets are too small by 0.5?Å and 0.9?Å, respectively (from DFT calculations). The five-porphyrin nanoring exhibits a structured absorption spectrum and its fluorescence extends to 1200?nm, reflecting strong ??conjugation and Herzberg-Teller vibronic coupling.
Project description:An effective time-dependent (TD) approach to compute vibrationally resolved optical spectra from first principles is presented for the computation of one-photon electronic spectra induced by either electric or magnetic transition dipoles or by their mutual interaction, namely absorption, emission, and circular dichroism. Particular care has been devoted to generality, modularity, and numerical stability including all the contributions that play a role at the harmonic level of approximation, namely Franck-Condon, Herzberg-Teller, and Dushinsky (i.e., mode mixing) effects. The implementation shares the same general framework of our previous time-independent (TI) model, thus allowing an effective integration between both approaches with the consequent enhancement of their respective strengths (e.g., spectrum completeness and straightforward account of temperature effects for the TD route versus band resolution and assignment for the TI route) using a single set of starting data. Implementation of both models in the same general computer program allows comprehensive studies using several levels of electronic structure description together with effective account of environmental effects by atomistic and/or continuum models of different sophistication. A few medium-size molecules (furan, phenyl radical, anthracene, dimethyloxirane, coumarin 339) have been studied in order to fully validate the approach.
Project description:We compare the two-photon absorption (2PA) spectra of non-centrosymmetrical metal-free tribenzo-tetraazachlorin (H2TBTAC) and analogous symmetrical tetra-tert-butyl-phthalocyanine (H2TtBuPc). Surprisingly, despite formal lack of center of inversion, the 2PA spectrum of H2TBTAC displays a two-photon allowed transition at 935 nm, similar to gerade-gerade (g-g) transitions observed in H2TtBuPc and in other symmetrical phthalocyanines. This transition is even better resolved in the singlet-singlet excited-state absorption spectrum. We tentatively explain the survival of the g-g transition in H2TBTAC by assuming that the main π-electron conjugation pathway in the tetraaza-substituted tetrapyrrole macrocycle bypasses the outer parts of the two oppositely located isoindole rings and thus renders the optically responsive core of the chromophore quasi-centrosymmetrical. By using the independently measured ground- and excited-state absorption extinction coefficients, we also show that the two-photon absorptivity can be quantitatively explained by a simple three-level model with the lowest energy Q1 state serving as an intermediate level.
Project description:Fluorescent proteins with long emission wavelengths are particularly attractive for deep tissue two-photon microscopy. Surprisingly, little is known about their two-photon absorption (2PA) properties. We present absolute 2PA spectra of a number of orange and red fluorescent proteins, including DsRed2, mRFP, TagRFP, and several mFruit proteins, in a wide range of excitation wavelengths (640-1400 nm). To evaluate 2PA cross section (sigma(2)), we use a new method relying only on the optical properties of the intact mature chromophore. In the tuning range of a mode-locked Ti:sapphire laser, 700-1000 nm, TagRFP possesses the highest two-photon cross section, sigma(2) = 315 GM, and brightness, sigma(2)phi = 130 GM, where phi is the fluorescence quantum yield. At longer wavelengths, 1000-1100 nm, tdTomato has the largest values, sigma(2) = 216 GM and sigma(2)phi = 120 GM, per protein chain. Compared to the benchmark EGFP, these proteins present 3-4 times improvement in two-photon brightness.
Project description:Intrinsically fluorescent proteins (FPs) exhibit broad variations of absorption and emission colors and are available for different imaging applications. The physical cause of the absorption wavelength change from 540 to 590 nm in the Fruits series of red FPs has been puzzling because the mutations that cause the shifts do not disturb the pi-conjugation pathway of the chromophore. Here, we use two-photon absorption measurements to show that the different colors can be explained by quadratic Stark effect due to variations of the strong electric field within the beta barrel. This model brings simplicity to a bewildering diversity of fluorescent protein properties, and it suggests a new way to sense electrical fields in biological systems.
Project description:Genetically encoded fluorescent proteins (FPs), and biosensors based on them, provide new insights into how living cells and tissues function. Ultimately, the goal of the bioimaging community is to use these probes deep in tissues and even in entire organisms, and this will require two-photon laser scanning microscopy (TPLSM), with its greater tissue penetration, lower autofluorescence background, and minimum photodamage in the out-of-focus volume. However, the extremely high instantaneous light intensities of femtosecond pulses in the focal volume dramatically increase the probability of further stepwise resonant photon absorption, leading to highly excited, ionizable and reactive states, often resulting in fast bleaching of fluorescent proteins in TPLSM. Here, we show that the femtosecond multiphoton excitation of red FPs (DsRed2 and mFruits), both in solution and live cells, results in a chain of consecutive, partially reversible reactions, with individual rates driven by a high-order (3-5 photon) absorption. The first step of this process corresponds to a three- (DsRed2) or four-photon (mFruits) induced fast isomerization of the chromophore, yielding intermediate fluorescent forms, which then subsequently transform into nonfluorescent products. Our experimental data and model calculations are consistent with a mechanism in which ultrafast electron transfer from the chromophore to a neighboring positively charged amino acid residue triggers the first step of multiphoton chromophore transformations in DsRed2 and mFruits, consisting of decarboxylation of a nearby deprotonated glutamic acid residue.
Project description:Monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) is a potential biomarker for Parkinson's disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disease associated with the loss of motor activities in human subjects. The disease state is associated with dopamine deprival, and so the inhibitors of MAO-B can serve as therapeutic drugs for PD. Since the expression level of MAO-B directly correlates to the disease progress, the distribution and population of this enzyme can be employed to monitor disease development. One of the approaches available for estimating the population is two-photon imaging. The ligands used for two-photon imaging should have high binding affinity and binding specificity toward MAO-B along with significant two-photon absorption cross sections when they are bound to the target. In this article, we study using a multiscale modeling approach, the binding affinity and spectroscopic properties (one- and two-photon absorption) of three (Flu1, Flu2, Flu3) of the currently available probes for monitoring the MAO-B level. We report that the binding affinity of the probes can be explained using the molecular size and binding cavity volume. The experimentally determined one-photon absorption spectrum is well reproduced by the employed QM/MM approaches, and the most accurate spectral shifts, on passing from one probe to another, are obtained at the coupled-cluster (CC2) level of theory. An important conclusion from this study is also the demonstration that intrinsic molecular two-photon absorption strengths (?2PA) increase in the order ?2PA (Flu1) > ?2PA (Flu2) > ?2PA (Flu3). This is in contrast with experimental data, which predict similar values of two-photon absorption cross sections for Flu1 and Flu3. We demontrate, based on the results of electronic-structure calculations for Flu1 that this discrepancy cannot be explained by an explicit account for neighboring residues (which could lead to charge transfer between a probe and neighboring aromatic amino acids thus boosting ?2PA). In summary, we show that the employed multiscale approach not only can optimize two-photon absorption properties and verify binding affinity, but it can also help in detailed analyses of experimental data.