Biochemistry vol. 60 p. 1148-1164 DOI: 10.1021/acs.biochem.1c00064 Published: 2021-04-20
Proton-coupled electron transfer reactions play critical roles in many aspects of sensory phototransduction. In the case of flavoprotein light sensors, reductive quenching of flavin excited states initiates chemical and conformational changes that ultimately transmit light signals to downstream targets. These reactions generally require neighboring aromatic residues and proton-donating side chains for rapid and coordinated electron and proton transfer to flavin. Although photoreduction of flavoproteins can produce either the anionic (ASQ) or neutral semiquinone (NSQ), the factors that favor one over the other are not well understood. Here we employ a biologically active variant of the light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain protein VVD devoid of the adduct-forming Cys residue (VVD-III) to probe the mechanism of flavin photoreduction and protonation. A series of isosteric and conservative residue replacements studied by rate measurements, fluorescence quantum yields, FTIR difference spectroscopy, and molecular dynamics simulations indicate that tyrosine residues facilitate charge recombination reactions that limit sustained flavin reduction, whereas methionine residues facilitate radical propagation and quenching and also gate solvent access for flavin protonation. Replacement of a single surface Met residue with Leu favors formation of the ASQ over the NSQ and desensitizes photoreduction to oxidants. In contrast, increasing site hydrophilicity by Gln substitution promotes rapid NSQ formation and weakens the influence of the redox environment. Overall, the photoreactivity of VVD-III can be understood in terms of redundant electron donors, internal hole quenching, and coupled proton transfer reactions that all depend upon protein conformation, dynamics, and solvent penetration.