Assessment of amide I spectroscopic maps for a gas-phase peptide using IR-UV double-resonance spectroscopy and density functional theory calculations
The spectroscopy of amide I vibrations has become a powerful tool for exploring protein structure and dynamics. To help with spectral interpretation, it is often useful to perform molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. To connect spectroscopic experiments to simulations in an efficient manner, several researchers have proposed “maps,” which relate observables in classical MD simulations to quantum spectroscopic variables. It can be difficult to discern whether errors in the theoretical results (compared to experiment) arise from inaccuracies in the MD trajectories or in the maps themselves. In this work, we evaluate spectroscopic maps independently from MD simulations by comparing experimental and theoretical spectra for a single conformation of the α-helical model peptide Ac-Phe-(Ala)5-Lys-H+ in the gas phase. Conformation-specific experimental spectra are obtained for the unlabeled peptide and for several singly and doubly 13C-labeled variants using infrared-ultraviolet double-resonance spectroscopy, and these spectra are found to be well-modeled by density functional theory (DFT) calculations at the B3LYP/6-31G** level. We then compare DFT results for the deuterated and 13C18O-labeled peptide with those from spectroscopic maps developed and used previously by the Skinner group. We find that the maps are typically accurate to within a few cm−1 for both frequencies and couplings, having larger errors only for the frequencies of terminal amides.