*To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received November 13, 2018; Revised December 27, 2018; Accepted December 27, 2018
In our recent X-ray study, we demonstrated that substitution of the natural leucine residue M196 with histidine in the reaction center (RC) from Rhodobacter (Rba.) sphaeroides leads to formation of a close contact between the genetically introduced histidine and the primary electron donor P (bacteriochlorophylls (BChls) PA and PB dimer) creating a novel pigment-protein interaction that is not observed in native RCs. In the present work, the possible nature of this novel interaction and its effects on the electronic properties of P and the photochemical charge separation in isolated mutant RCs L(M196)H are investigated at room temperature using steady-state absorption spectroscopy, light-induced difference FTIR spectroscopy, and femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy. The results are compared with the data obtained for the RCs from Rba. sphaeroides pseudo-wild type strain. It is shown that the L(M196)H mutation results in a decrease of intensity and broadening of the long-wavelength Qy absorption band of P at ~865 nm. Due to the mutation, there is also weakening of the electronic coupling between BChls in the radical cation P+ and increase in the positive charge localization on the PA molecule. Despite the significant perturbations of the electronic structure of P, the mutant RCs retain high electron transfer rates and quantum yield of the P+Q-A state (QA is the primary quinone acceptor), which is close to the one observed in the native RCs. Comparison of our results with the literature data suggests that the imidazole group of histidine M196 forms a π-hydrogen bond with the π-electron system of the PB molecule in the P dimer. It is likely that the specific (T-shaped) spatial organization of the π-hydrogen interaction and its potential heterogeneity in relation to the bonding energy is, at least partially, the reason that this type of interaction between the protein and the pigment and quinone cofactors is not realized in the native RCs.
KEY WORDS: bacterial reaction center, amino acid replacement, primary electron donor, electronic structure, electron transfer, Rhodobacter sphaeroides