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Abstract

The excited-state double proton transfer of model DNA base pairs, 7-azaindole (7AI) dimers, is explored in a low-temperature organic glass of n-dodecane using picosecond time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. Reaction mechanisms are found to depend on the conformations of 7AI dimers at the moment of excitation; whereas planar conformers tautomerize rapidly (<10 ps), twisted conformers undergo double proton transfer to form tautomeric dimers on the time scale of 250 ps at 8 K. The proton transfer is found to consist of two orthogonal steps: precursor-configurational optimization and intrinsic proton transfer via tunneling. The rate is almost isotope independent at cryogenic temperatures because configurational optimization is the rate-determining step of the overall proton transfer. This optimization is assisted by lattice vibrations below 150 K or by librational motions above 150 K.