Abstract Phase sensitive detection of fluorescence was used to directly record the initially excited and the solvent-relaxed emission spectra of N-acetyl-L-tryptophanamide in propylene glycol. Emission from the initially excited state was suppressed by adjusting the phase sensitive detector to be out of phase with the emission on the short wavelength side of the fluorescence spectrum. Then, the phase sensitive intensities revealed the emission spectrum of the solvent relaxed state. Similarly, the emission from the solvent relaxed state was suppressed by adjusting the detector to be out of phase with the emission on the long wavelength side of the spectrum, allowing the spectrum of the initially excited state to be directly recorded. Distinct emission spectra could be recorded when the solvent relaxation time was comparable to the fluorescence lifetime. At higher or lower temperatures, emission occurs predominantly from a single state, and suppression of the fluorescence signal at any arbitrary wavelength resulted in suppression of the entire emission. A simple theory is described which allows the spectral relaxation times to be estimated from the phase sensitive intensities. From this analysis we obtained an activation energy for spectral relaxation of 3 kcal/mol. This activation energy is smaller than that found for the temperature dependence of fluorescence depolarization, 7.8 kcal/mol. We attribute this difference to the smaller molecular motions required for spectral relaxation.
The method of phase sensitive detection of fluorescence shows excellent resolving power and sensitivity, and this method should facilitate measurement of spectral relaxation around tryptophan residues in proteins.