* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received March 16, 2010
Excited flavin and pterin molecules are active in intermolecular energy transfer and in photocatalysis of redox reactions resulting in conservation of free energy. Flavin-containing pigments produced in models of the prebiotic environment are capable of converting photon energy into the energy of phosphoanhydride bonds of ATP. However, during evolution photochemical reactions involving excited FMN or FAD molecules failed to become participants of bioenergy transfer systems, but they appear in enzymes responsible for repair of UV-damaged DNA (DNA photolyases) and also in receptors of blue and UV-A light regulating vital functions of organisms. The families of these photoproteins (DNA-photolyases and cryptochromes, LOV-domain- and BLUF-domain-containing proteins) are different in the structure and in mechanisms of the photoprocesses. The excited flavin molecules are involved in photochemical processes in reaction centers of these photoproteins. In DNA photolyases and cryptochromes the excitation energy on the reaction center flavin is supplied from an antenna molecule that is bound with the same polypeptide. The role of antenna is played by MTHF or by 8-HDF in some DNA photolyases, i.e. also by molecules with known coenzyme functions in biocatalysis. Differences in the structure of chromophore-binding domains suggest an independent origin of the photoprotein families. The analysis of structure and properties of coenzyme molecules reveals some specific features that were significant in evolution for their being selected as chromophores in these proteins.
KEY WORDS: evolution, photoreceptors, photocatalysis, excited states, selection of chromophores, coenzymes, flavins, pterins, folates, DNA photolyases, cryptochromes, phototropins, LOV domain, BLUF domain, modeling of prebiotic processes, photophosphorylation