The 1,3,6,8-tetrabromocarbazole and 3-bromocarbazole have attracted great attention in the ecotoxicology field recently as hazardous environmental contaminants. In this study, the quenching mechanism of these two substances binding with human serum albumin (HSA) has been investigated with spectroscopic methods. Through fluorescence quenching and binding site experiments with steady-state fluorescence and UV-Vis spectra, the intrinsic fluorescence of HSA quenched by 1,3,6,8-tetrabromocarbazole and 3-bromocarbazole both in static process, are activated by binding to site II (subdomain IIIA) of the HSA. In addition, it was not only found that the conformation and secondary structure of the proteins changes, but also that their spontaneous binding processes were driven by electrostatic interactions as well as hydrophobic forces for HSA-1,3,6,8-tetrabromocarbazole, and by typical hydrophobic forces for HSA-3-bromocarbazole. The above studies are beneficial to enhance our understanding of the ecotoxicology and environmental behaviors of halogenated carbazoles.
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