Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Gary Hastings

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard H. Miller

Third Advisor

Dr. Brain D. Thoms

Fourth Advisor

Dr. A. G. Unil Perera

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Gennady Cymbalyuk

Sixth Advisor

Dr. Murad Sarsour


Fourier transform infrared difference spectroscopy (FTIR DS) is widely used to study the structural details of electron transfer cofactors in photosynthetic protein complexes. In photosynthetic proteins quinones play an important role, functioning as a cofactor in light-driven electron transfer.

In photosystem I (PS I) phylloquinone (PhQ) functions as an intermediary in electron transfer. To investigate the properties of PhQ that occupies the, so called, A1 binding site in PS I, time-resolved step-scan FTIR DS, with 5µs time resolution at 77K has been used. By replacing PhQ in the A1 binding site with specifically isotope labeled version, information on the vibrational frequencies associated specifically with the quinone in the binding site were obtained, which could be compared to the vibrational properties of quinone in solution or quinones in other protein binding sites. To further aid in assessing the origin of bands in the spectra, quantum mechanics /molecular mechanics (QM/MM) ONIOM type calculations were undertaken. ONIOM is an acronym for Our own N-layered Integrated molecular Orbital and molecular Mechanics. We find that the phytyl tail of PhQ does not play an important role in the orientation of PhQ in the A1 binding site. We also find that PhQ, in both neutral and reduced states, is strongly hydrogen bonded.

To test and verify the applicability of our QM/MM approach, ONIOM calculations were also undertaken for ubiquinone and a variety of other quinones incorporated into the, so called, QA binding site in purple bacteria photosynthetic reaction centers. The calculated and experimental spectra agree well, demonstrating the utility and applicability of our ONIOM approach. Hydrogen bonding to the carbonyl groups of quinones in the QA binding site was shown to be relatively weak, and it was found that hydrogen bonding to neutral ubiquinone in purple bacterial reaction centers can be considered in purely electrostatic terms, contrary to the widely held belief that the hydrogen bonding amino acids should be treated quantum mechanically.