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Keywords:

  • quercetin;
  • human serum albumin;
  • protein-flavonol interaction;
  • excited-state proton transfer;
  • fluorescence anisotropy;
  • fluorescence resonance energy transfer;
  • fluorescence decay;
  • far-UV circular dichroism

Abstract

Flavonols are plant pigments that are ubiquitous in nature. Quercetin (3,3′,4′,5,7-pentahydroxyflavone) and other related plant flavonols have come into recent prominence because of their usefulness as anticancer, antitumor, anti-AIDS, and other important therapeutic activities of significant potency and low systemic toxicity. Quercetin is intrinsically weakly fluorescent in aqueous solution, showing an emission maximum at ∼538 nm. Upon binding to human serum albumin (HSA), quercetin undergoes dramatic enhancement in its fluorescence emission intensity, along with the appearance of dual emission behavior, consisting of normal and excited-state proton transfer (ESPT) fluorescence. In addition, the occurrence of a third emitting species has been noted for the first time. This is attributed to a electronic ground-state complex formed in the protein environment. High values of the fluorescence anisotropy (r) are obtained in the presence of HSA for the ESPT tautomer (r = 0.18), as well as the complex species (r = 0.37) of quercetin, indicating that the precursor ground-state molecules for both these emitting species of quercetin molecules are located in the motionally constrained sites of HSA. The steady-state emission data suggest that quercetin binds to two distinct sites in HSA from which the emissions from the normal tautomer and complex species take place. The preliminary results of studies on emission decay kinetics are also reported herein. Studies by far-UV circular dichroism spectroscopy reveal that binding of quercetin induces no significant perturbation in the secondary structure of HSA. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers (Biospectroscopy), 2003