Tracking the Electron Transfer Cascade in European Robin Cryptochrome 4 Mutants
Daniel Timmer, Anders Frederiksen, Daniel C. Lünemann, Anitta R. Thomas, Jingjing Xu, Rabea Bartölke, Jessica Schmidt, Tomáš Kubař, Antonietta De Sio, Ilia A. Solov'yov, Henrik Mouritsen, Christoph Lienau
Journal of the American Chemical Society
The primary step in the mechanism by which migratory birds sensethe Earth�s magnetic field is thought to be the light-induced formation of long-lived magnetically sensitive radical pairs within cryptochrome flavoproteins located in the birds' retinas. Blue-light absorption by the non-covalently bound flavin chromophore triggers sequential electron transfers along a chain of four tryptophan residues toward the photoexcited flavin. The recently demonstrated ability to express cryptochrome 4a from the night-migratory European robin (Erithacus rubecula), ErCry4a, and to replace each of the tryptophan residues by a redox-inactive phenylalanine offers the prospect of exploring the roles of the four tryptophans. Here, we use ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy to compare wild type ErCry4a and four mutants having a phenylalanine at different positions in the chain. We find that each of the three tryptophan residues closest to the flavin adds a distinct relaxation component (time constants: 0.5, 30, and 150 ps) in the transient absorption data. The dynamics of the mutant containing a phenylalanine at the fourth position, furthest from the flavin, are very similar to those of wild type ErCry4a, except for a reduced concentration of long-lived radical pairs. The experimental results are evaluated and discussed in the framework of real-time quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical electron transfer simulations based on the density functional-based tight binding approach. This comparison between simulation results and experimental measurements provides a detailed microscopic insight into the sequential electron transfers along the tryptophan chain. Our results offer a route to the study of spin transport and dynamical spin correlations in flavoprotein radical pairs.