Electronic and vibrational spectroscopy of cold protonated amino acids in the gas phase

In this thesis report, we describe a novel home-built instrument designed to study the spectroscopy of biomolecular ions in the gas phase and at low temperature, and we present the first experimental results obtained on protonated aromatic amino acids. The apparatus consists in a tandem mass spectrometer equipped with a nanospray ion source and a cryocooled 22-pole ion trap. The charged species produced by the source traverse a first quadrupole mass filter and mass-selected ions are then accumulated and thermalized in the ion trap, where their vibrational temperature can be lowered to   10 K. Two setups allow us to generate ultraviolet and infrared laser light to spectroscopically probe the trapped ions by photodissociation. The resulting fragment ions are finally released from the trap and mass analyzed by a second quadrupole spectrometer. Photodissociation electronic spectra have been measured for the protonated amino acids tryptophan (TrpH+) and tyrosine (TyrH+), as well as for hydrated complexes of the former. The spectrum of TyrH+ exhibits sharp, fully resolved vibronic transitions, which attests to the low temperature of the ions. In contrast, that of tryptophan shows a broad absorption band that covers several hundreds of wavenumbers. This has been attributed to lifetime broadening related to an ultrafast (<   100 fs) deactivation mechanism of the TrpH+ S1(ππ*) excited state. This phenomenon is caused by a strong coupling between this ππ* state and a nearby dissociative state of πσ* character mainly localized on the charged ammonium group. Solvation of TrpH+ by only two water molecules is sufficient to significantly destabilize the σ* orbitals and reduce that coupling, which results in a longer excited-state lifetime and a fully resolved electronic spectrum. These interpretations are supported by ab initio and density functional theory (DFT) calculations. Infrared-ultraviolet double resonance spectroscopic techniques have been successfully implemented to identify the different conformers of TyrH+ and doubly hydrated protonated tryptophan (TrpH+·W2) by measuring conformer-specific vibrational and electronic spectra for each of them. By comparison with the results of DFT geometry and harmonic frequency calculations, we could confidently determine the structures of the TyrH+ conformers and suggest possible assignments for those of TrpH+·W2. Two important stabilizing interactions could be inferred from these results: (i) the attraction between the charged ammonium group and the π-electron cloud of the aromatic ring; (ii) the hydrogen-bonding interaction of a donor water molecule to the acceptor indole ring of TrpH+·W2.

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