A theoretical study of the one-photon absorption of five fluorescent proteins (FPs) is presented. The absorption properties are calculated using a polarizable embedding approach combined with density functional theory (PE-DFT) on the wild-type green fluorescent protein (wtGFP) and several of its mutants (BFP, eGFP, YFP and eCFP). The observed trends in excitation energies among the FPs are reproduced by our approach when performing calculations directly on the crystal structures or when using structures extracted from a molecular dynamics simulations. However, in the former case, QM/MM geometry optimization of the chromophores within a frozen protein environment is needed in order to reproduce the experimental trends. Explicit account of polarization in the force field is not needed to yield the correct trend between the different FPs, but is necessary for reproducing the experimentally observed red shift from vacuum to protein. This is the first computational study of a range of fluorescent proteins using a polarizable embedding potential.
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2013, Vol 15, Issue 13