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Keywords:

  • phenylalanine;
  • hydration;
  • H-bonds;
  • multiconformational analysis;
  • density functional theory

Thanks to a considerable modulation of electronic polarizability, six phenylalanine (Phe) vibration modes located at ca. 1606, 1586, 1207, 1031, 1004 and 622 cm−1 appear as intense or medium bands in the Raman spectra of peptides and proteins, as confirmed by the Raman data collected from free amino acid, somatostatin and bovine serum albumin (BSA). To get information on the nature and location of these lines, we resorted to a multiconformational analysis which consists in a systematic investigation of the structural and vibrational features of hydrated Phe in a conformational space depending on four angular variables: φ, ψ, χ1 and χ2. The first two variables correspond to the Phe backbone torsion angles, whereas the latter two refer to its side chain. Based on a protocol described in an accompanying report on glycine and its protonated and deprotonated species, we have prepared an initial set of 123 initial clusters of Phe + 5H2O, including all plausible values of the above mentioned conformational angles. The results of their geometry optimization, by means of the density functional theory using the B3LYP hybrid functional, were first analyzed through the comparison between the E(χ1, χ2) energy maps obtained either by an explicit or by an implicit hydration model. Then, a set of nine doubly minimized clusters corresponding to the deepest local minima were used for further structural and vibrational analysis. Beyond providing a reliable assignment for the above mentioned characteristic Raman lines, the theoretical spectrum allowed us to carry out an overview of the whole observed data of Phe in aqueous solution. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.