The response of wild-type GFP to UV and visible light was investigated using steady state absorption, fluorescence, and Raman spectroscopies. As reported previously [van Thor, Nat. Struct. Biol. 2002, 9, 37-41], irradiation of GFP results in decarboxylation of E222. Here it is reported that the rate of the light-driven decarboxylation reaction strongly depends on the excitation wavelength, decreasing in the order 254 nm > 280 nm > 476 nm. The relative efficiencies of decarboxylation are explained in terms of the Kolbe-type mechanism in which the excited state of the chromophore acts as an oxidant by accepting an electron from E222. Specifically, it is proposed that 254 nm excitation populates the S2 (or higher) excited state of the chromophore, whereas 404 and 476 nm excitation populate the S1 excited state of neutral and anionic forms, respectively, and that the relative oxidizing power of the three excited states controls the rate of the decarboxylation reaction. In addition, the role of W57 in the photophysics of GFP has been probed by mutating this residue to phenylalanine. These studies reveal that while W57 does not affect decarboxylation, this residue is involved in resonance energy transfer with the chromophore, thereby partially explaining the green fluorescence observed upon UV irradiation of wild-type GFP. Finally, comparison of Raman spectra obtained from nonilluminated and decarboxylated forms of wild-type GFP has provided further vibrational band assignments for neutral and anionic forms of the chromophore within the protein. In addition, these spectra provide valuable insight into the specific interactions between the protein and the chromophore that control the optical properties of wild-type GFP.
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