Proton-transfer reaction dynamics within the human serum albumin protein

J Phys Chem B. 2011 Jun 16;115(23):7637-47. doi: 10.1021/jp200294q. Epub 2011 Apr 8.


We report on femto- to nanosecond studies of the excited state intermolecular proton transfer (ESPT) reaction of trisodium 8-hydroxypyrene-1,3,6-trisulfonate (pyranine, HPTS) with the human serum albumin (HSA) protein. The formed robust 1:1 complexes (K(eq) = (2.6 ± 0.1) × 10(6) M(-1)) show both photoacid (∼430 nm) and conjugated photobase (∼500 nm) emissions of the caged HPTS in its protonated structure. The proton-transfer reactions in these complexes proceed in a large time window, spanning from 150 fs to ∼1.2 ns. The ultrafast component reflects a direct H-bond breaking and making in the robust complexes, involving the carboxylate groups of the amino acids, while the slowest one is arising from the slow dynamics of the so-called biological water. Additional time constants of the caged photoacid to give the conjugated photobase are observed, assigned to the ESPT reaction within "loose" complexes (3 to tens of picoseconds), and 130 ps and 1.2 ns due to the slow dynamics of the water molecules around the protein residues and involved in the proton transfer. The fs-ns anisotropy measurements confirm the robustness of the HPTS:HSA complexes. Our results indicate that, even though robust 1:1 complexes between HPTS and the HSA are formed, the system is heterogeneous, due to different possible interactions of the dye with the inside/outside parts of the protein. Furthermore, we find lower values of the initial anisotropy (r(0)) in the protein (0.33) and in γ-CD (0.28) in comparison with buffered aqueous solution (0.385). We propose that caging HPTS by the HSA protein and by the cyclodextrin affects the electronic redistribution in a different degree of mixing between the (1)L(a) and (1)L(b) states in the formed deprotonated form, for which the interactions of the sulfonate groups with the surroundings should play a key role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arylsulfonates / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protons*
  • Serum Albumin / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Arylsulfonates
  • Protons
  • Serum Albumin
  • pyranine