Physical Chemistry

Theory of Protein Charge Transfer: Electron Transfer between Tryptophan Residue and Active Site of Azurin



One reaction step in the conductivity relay of azurin, electron transfer between the Cu-based active site and the tryptophan residue, is studied theoretically and by classical molecular dynamics simulations. Oxidation of tryptophan results in electrowetting of this residue. This structural change makes the free energy surfaces of electron transfer non-parabolic as described by the Q-model of electron transfer. We analyze the medium dynamical effect on protein electron transfer produced by coupled Stokes-shift dynamics and the dynamics of the donor-acceptor distance modulating electron tunneling. The equilibrium donor-acceptor distance falls in the plateau region of the rate constant, when it is determined by the protein-water dynamics and the probability of electron tunneling does not affect the rate. The crossover distance found here puts most intraprotein electron-transfer reactions under the umbrella of dynamical control. The crossover between the medium-controlled and tunneling-controlled kinetics is combined with the effect of the protein-water medium on the activation barrier to formulate principles of tunability of protein-based charge-transfer chains. The main principle in optimizing the activation barrier is the departure from the Gaussian-Gibbsian statistics of fluctuations promoting activated transitions. This is achieved either by incomplete (nonergodic) sampling, breaking the link between the Stokes-shift and variance reorganization energies, or through wetting-induced structural changes of the enzyme's active site.


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Supplementary material

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Supporting Information
Simulation protocol, atomic charges from quantum calculations, and data analysis.