Factors Influencing Proton Positions in Biomolecules

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International Journal of Quantum Chemistry

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Results of quantum mechanical calculations are presented that suggest a number of mechanisms whereby protons may be shifted from one group to another along an H bond. The first factor to be considered is a stretching of the bond that drastically raises the energy barrier to transfer. It is possible to predict barriers for an arbitrary system based only on results for a simple system and knowledge of the relevant bond length in the isolated subsystems. Factors that increase the intrinsic basicity of the B group in A-H-B lead not only to a lowering of the energy of the A-HB state relative to AH-B but also to a reduction in the barrier to transfer of the proton from A to B. Ions in the vicinity of the H bond exert a powerful influence and can shift the proton to the less basic group across a gradient of several pK units. Rather than shielding the proton from the external ion, the H bond acts instead to amplify the effects of the electric field. Reorientation of the A and B groups relative to one another, i.e., bends of the H bond, also produce surprisingly large changes in the relative energies of the AH-B and A-HB states. Such bends are capable of pushing the proton across to the normally less basic group, providing a mechanism of coupling conformational changes to proton ‘pumping’ activity. It is found that the high and low pH states of a given H bond can have dramatically differnt relative populations of the AH-B and A-HB configurations. These observations are explained in terms of fundamental concepts involving electrostatic interaction energies.



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Published by Wiley-Blackwell in International Journal of Quantum Chemistry

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