Investigating plausible mechanisms for the photo-induced partial unfolding of a globular protein
Two hypotheses are proposed to explain the photo-induced unfolding of β-lactoglobulin (BLG) that occurs when non-covalently bound to a dye molecule, meso -tetrakis (p-sulfonatophenyl) porphyrin (TSPP), and illuminated by a laser in the post-Tanford transition configuration. The first involves a photo-induced electron transfer from the porphyrin to the protein. The second involves the production of kynurenine by singlet oxygen that is generated during photo-excitation of the porphyrin. To evaluate these hypotheses, a series of computational and experimental results have been combined to establish the physical state of the BLG-TSPP complex and to estimate the likelihood of a post-irradiation event to initiate the partial unfolding. Determining the binding site location is crucial to establish the position of the photo-induced events and the likely end-product. A study of the vibronic state of the BLG-TSPP complex using resonant Raman and absorption spectroscopy coupled with density functional theory (DFT) and docking simulations is used to estimate the location of the binding site. Once the binding site is found, molecular dynamics simulations of the post-irradiation event relaxations in the protein are used to estimate the resulting secondary structure. This structure is compared to experimental estimates of the secondary structure of the unfolded protein to determine which hypothesis is the most likely mechanism to explain the unfolding.