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  1. Bifurcating electron transferring flavoproteins (Bf-ETFs) tune chemically identical flavins to two contrasting roles. To understand how, we used hybrid quantum mechanical molecular mechanical calculations to characterize non-covalent interactions applied to each flavin by the protein. Our computations replicated the differences between the reactivities of the flavins: the electron transferring flavin (ETflavin) was calculated to stabilize anionic semiquinone (ASQ) as needed to execute its single-electron transfers, whereas the Bf flavin (Bfflavin) was found to disfavor the ASQ state more than does free flavin and to be less susceptible to reduction. The stability of ETflavin ASQ was attributed in part to H-bond donation to the flavin O2 from a nearby His side chain, via comparison of models employing different tautomers of His. This H-bond between O2 and the ET site was uniquely strong in the ASQ state, whereas reduction of ETflavin to the anionic hydroquinone (AHQ) was associated with side chain reorientation, backbone displacement and reorganization of its H-bond network including a Tyr from the other domain and subunit of the ETF. The Bf site was less responsive overall, but formation of the Bfflavin AHQ allowed a nearby Arg side chain to adopt an alternative rotamer that can H-bond to the Bfflavin O4. This would stabilize the anionic Bfflavin and rationalize effects of mutation at this position. Thus, our computations provide insights on states and conformations that have not been possible to characterize experimentally, offering explanations for observed residue conservation and raising possibilities that can now be tested. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. Flavin-based electron bifurcation allows enzymes to redistribute energy among electrons by coupling endergonic and exergonic electron transfer reactions. Diverse bifurcating enzymes employ a two-flavin electron transfer flavoprotein (ETF) that accepts hydride from NADH at a flavin (the so-called bifurcating FAD, Bf-FAD). The Bf-FAD passes one electron exergonically to a second flavin thereby assuming a reactive semiquinone state able to reduce ferredoxin or flavodoxin semiquinone. The flavin that accepts one electron and passes it on via exergonic electron transfer is known as the electron transfer FAD (ET-FAD) and is believed to correspond to the single FAD present in canonical ETFs, in domain II. The Bf-FAD is believed to be the one that is unique to bifurcating ETFs, bound between domains I and III. This very reasonable model has yet to be challenged experimentally. Herein we used site-directed mutagenesis to disrupt FAD binding to the presumed Bf site between domains I and III, in the Bf-ETF from Rhodopseudomonas palustris ( Rpa ETF). The resulting protein contained only 0.80 ± 0.05 FAD, plus 1.21 ± 0.04 bound AMP as in canonical ETFs. The flavin was not subject to reduction by NADH, confirming absence of Bf-FAD. The retained FAD displayed visible circular dichroism (CD) similar to that of the ET-FAD of Rpa ETF. Likewise, the mutant underwent two sequential one-electron reductions forming and then consuming anionic semiquinone, reproducing the reactivity of the ET-FAD. These data confirm that the retained FAD in domain II corresponds the ET-FAD. Quantum chemical calculations of the absorbance and CD spectra of each of WT Rpa ETF's two flavins reproduced the observed differences between their CD and absorbance signatures. The calculations for the flavin bound in domain II agreed better with the spectra of the ET-flavin, and those calculated based on the flavin between domains I and III agreed better with spectra of the Bf-flavin. Thus calculations independently confirm the locations of each flavin. We conclude that the site in domain II harbours the ET-FAD whereas the mutated site between domains I and III is the Bf-FAD site, confirming the accepted model by two different tests. 
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  3. Abstract

    Flavins have emerged as central to electron bifurcation, signaling, and countless enzymatic reactions. In bifurcation, two electrons acquired as a pair are separated in coupled transfers wherein the energy of both is concentrated on one of the two. This enables organisms to drive demanding reactions based on abundant low‐grade chemical fuel. To enable incorporation of this and other flavin capabilities into designed materials and devices, it is essential to understand fundamental principles of flavin electronic structure that make flavins so reactive and tunable by interactions with protein. Emerging computational tools can now replicate spectra of flavins and are gaining capacity to explain reactivity at atomistic resolution, based on electronic structures. Such fundamental understanding can moreover be transferrable to other chemical systems. A variety of computational innovations have been critical in reproducing experimental properties of flavins including their electronic spectra, vibrational signatures, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) chemical shifts. A computational toolbox for understanding flavin reactivity moreover must be able to treat all five oxidation and protonation states, in addition to excited states that participate in flavoprotein's light‐driven reactions. Therefore, we compare emerging hybrid strategies and their successes in replicating effects of hydrogen bonding, the surrounding dielectric, and local electrostatics. These contribute to the protein's ability to modulate flavin reactivity, so we conclude with a survey of methods for incorporating the effects of the protein residues explicitly, as well as local dynamics. Computation is poised to elucidate the factors that affect a bound flavin's ability to mediate stunningly diverse reactions, and make life possible.

    This article is categorized under:

    Structure and Mechanism > Computational Biochemistry and Biophysics

    Electronic Structure Theory > Combined QM/MM Methods

    Theoretical and Physical Chemistry > Spectroscopy

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  4. Abstract

    This perspective article highlights the challenges in the theoretical description of photoreceptor proteins using multiscale modeling, as discussed at the CECAM workshop in Tel Aviv, Israel. The participants have identified grand challenges and discussed the development of new tools to address them. Recent progress in understanding representative proteins such as green fluorescent protein, photoactive yellow protein, phytochrome, and rhodopsin is presented, along with methodological developments.

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