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Native Biomolecules in the Gas Phase? The Case of Green Fluorescent Protein

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Abstract

Green fluorescent protein (GFP) was ionized by native electrospray ionization and trapped for many seconds in high vacuum, allowing fluorescence emission to be measured as a probe of its biological function, to answer the question whether GFP exists in the native form in the gas phase or not. Although a narrow charge-state distribution, a collision cross-section very close to that expected for correctly folded GFP, and a large stability against dissociation all support a near-native gas-phase structure, no fluorescence emission was observed. The loss of the native form is attributed to the absence of residual water in the gas phase, which normally stabilizes the para-hydroxybenzylidene imidazolone chromophore of GFP.

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