Mutations were made in four residues near the bacteriochlorophyll cofactors of the photosynthetic reaction center from Rhodobacter sphaeroides. These mutations, L131 Leu to His and M160 Leu to His, near the dimer bacteriochlorophylls, and M203 Gly to Asp and L177 lie to Asp, near the monomer bacteriochlorophylls, were designed to result in the placement of a hydrogen bond donor group near the ring V keto carbonyl of each bacteriochlorophyll. Perturbations of the electronic structures of the bacteriochlorophylls in the mutants are indicated by additional resolved transitions in the bacteriochlorophyll absorption bands in steady-state low-temperature and time-resolved room temperature spectra in three of the resulting mutant reaction centers. The major effect of the two mutations near the dimer was an increase up to 80 mV in the donor oxidation-reduction midpoint potential. Correspondingly, the calculated free energy difference between the excited state of the primary donor and the initial charge separated state decreased by up to 55 mV, the initial forward electron-transfer rate was up to 4 times slower, and the rate of charge recombination between the primary quinone and the donor was ~ 30% faster in these two mutants compared to the wild type. The two mutations near the monomer bacteriochlorophylls had minor changes of 25 mV or less in the donor oxidation-reduction potential, but the mutation close to the monomer bacteriochlorophyll on the active branch resulted in a roughly 3-fold decrease in the rate of the initial electron transfer.
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