The emitted color in fireflies’ bioluminescent systems depends on the beetle species the system is extracted from and on different external factors (pH, temperature…) among others. Controlling the energy of the emitted light (i.e., color) is of crucial interest for the use of such bioluminescent systems. For instance, in the biomedical field, red emitted light is desirable because of its larger tissue penetration and lower energies. In order to investigate the influence of the protein environment and the AMP protonation state on the emitted color, the emission spectra of the phenolate-keto and phenolate-enol oxyluciferin forms have been simulated by means of MD simulations and QM/MM calculations, considering: two different protein conformations (with an open or closed C-terminal domain with respect to the N-terminal) and two protonation states of AMP. The results show that the emission spectra when considering the protein characterized by a closed conformation are blue-shifted compared to the open conformation. Moreover, the complete deprotonation of AMP phosphate group (AMP2−
) can also lead to a blue-shift of the emission spectra but only when considering the closed protein conformation (open form is not sensitive to changes of AMP protonation state). These findings can be reasoned by the different interactions (hydrogen-bonds) found between oxyluciferin and the surrounding (protein, AMP and water molecules). This study gets partial insight into the possible origin of the emitted color modulation by changes of the pH or luciferase conformations.
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