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Étude théorique de l’extinction de fluorescence des protéines fluorescentes : champ de forces, mécanisme moléculaire et modèle cinétique

Abstract : Fluorescent proteins, like GFP (green fluorescent protein), are efficient sensors for a variety of physical-chemical properties and they are extensively used as markers in living cells imaging. These proteins have been widely studied both experimentally and theoretically the last decade. The comprehension of the protein's role in the regulation of the radiative emission is today essentially qualitative: it appears that the protein enables the fluorescence by blocking the processes that deactivates it; the deactivating processes are very quick and efficient (on the picosecond time scale) when the chromophore is isolated, and they are identified as being the torsions around the central bonds of the chromophore (tau and phi). The fluorescence lifetimes of a protein is very sensitive to mutations in the vicinity of the chromophore, to modifications in pH or in temperature. This seems to indicate a control of the dynamics of the chromophore by different parameters, that are not necessarily identified.A study of the dynamics of the protein would allow a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that are responsible for the fluorescence quenching. From a theoretical point of view, one is faced with three difficulties in this type of study: the size of the system (>30 000 atoms including a water box), the required time scale (tens of nanoseconds) and the fact that the torsions tau and phi are strongly coupled in the excited state of the chromophore. We must thus rule out the already existing dynamics methods: quantum dynamics (AIMD), mixed classical-quantum dynamics (QM/MD) and classical molecular dynamics (MD).We have overcome this problem by modeling the torsional potential energy surface of the chromophore in the first excited state trough high precision quantum calculations, by interpolating the energy values with an analytical fitting expression depending on the torsions tau and phi and with a precision high enough to reproduce barriers of the order of 1 kcal/mol, and lastly, by implementing this fitting expression in a parallelized version of the MD program AMBER. Another theoretical difficulty concerns the simulation and the statistical analysis of rare events on the nanosecond time scale without knowing the reaction path in advance, i.e. the deformations of the protein and of the chromophore leading to geometries where the internal conversion is favored. As a result of these developments and of the simulations they have enabled, we have been able to model, for the first time, the non-radiative deactivation by internal conversion at the nanosecond time scale in three different fluorescent proteins. The analysis of the classical molecular dynamics gives us a quantitative evaluation of the lifetime of the fluorescence extinction, in agreement with experimental results. In addition, it has allowed us to identify the concerted molecular movements between the protein and the chromophore leading to this extinction. A more complete representation of the mechanism that liberates or provokes the chromophore torsion emerges from these results: it could be a specific movement of the protein, that occurs on the nanosecond timescale, or several specific movements that occur more frequently (breakage of a hydrogen bond, rotation of side chains, dynamics of a water cluster), but that coincide only on the nanosecond time scale. These specific movements do not have a high energy cost but the need for them to coincide creates a delay of several nanoseconds compared to the chromophore torsion in vacuo which occurs after a few picoseconds. In the proteins we have studied (GFP, YFP and Padron), we have identified the principle components of the mechanisms and the amino acids that are implicated in this chromophore-protein interplay.
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Gabriella Jonasson. Étude théorique de l’extinction de fluorescence des protéines fluorescentes : champ de forces, mécanisme moléculaire et modèle cinétique. Autre. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI, 2012. Français. ⟨NNT : 2012PA112121⟩. ⟨tel-00734397⟩

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