: We have used a nanosecond pH-jump technique, coupled with simultaneous transient absorption and fluorescence emission detection, to characterize the dynamics of the acid-induced spectral changes in the GFPmut2 chromophore. Disappearance of the absorbance at 488 nm and the green fluorescence emission occurs with a thermally activated, double exponential relaxation. To understand the source of the two transients we have introduced mutations in amino acid residues that interact with the chromophore (H148G, T203V, and E222Q). Results indicate that the faster transient is associated with proton binding from the solution, while the second process, smaller in amplitude, is attributed to structural rearrangement of the amino acids surrounding the chromophore. The protonation rate shows a 3-fold increase for the H148G mutant, demonstrating that His148 plays a key role in protecting the chromophore from the solvent. The deprotonation rate for T203V is an order of magnitude smaller, showing that the hydrogen bond with the hydroxyl of Thr203 is important in stabilizing the deprotonated form of the chromophore. A kinetic model suggests that, in addition to protecting the chromophore from the solvent, His148 may act as the primary acceptor for the protons on the way to the chromophore.
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