Journal of the American Chemical Society

Reaction of singlet oxygen with tryptophan in proteins: a pronounced effect of the local environment on the reaction rate.

PMID 22594303


Singlet molecular oxygen, O(2)(a(1)Δ(g)), can influence many processes pertinent to the function of biological systems, including events that result in cell death. Many of these processes involve a reaction between singlet oxygen and a given amino acid in a protein. As a result, the behavior of that protein can change, either because of a structural alteration and/or a direct modification of an active site. Surprisingly, however, little is known about rate constants for reactions between singlet oxygen and amino acids when the latter are in a protein. In this report, we demonstrate using five separate proteins, each containing only a single tryptophan residue, that the rate constant for singlet oxygen reaction with tryptophan depends significantly on the position of this amino acid in the protein. Most importantly, the reaction rate constant depends not only on the accessibility of the tryptophan residue to oxygen, but also on factors that characterize the local molecular environment of the tryptophan in the protein. The fact that the local protein environment can either appreciably inhibit or accelerate the reaction of singlet oxygen with a given amino acid can have significant ramifications for singlet-oxygen-mediated events that perturb cell function.