Fluorescence quenching and isotope effect of tryptophan

J. Eisinger*, G. Navon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The fluorescence spectra and quantum yields of trytophan (TRP) and several tryptophan derivatives in water and a polar glass have been measured over wide temperature ranges. For TRP, the wavelength of maximum emission shifts from 310 nm at 80°K to 355 nm at room temperature with almost all of the red shift occurring between 170° and 230°K, which is the temperature range where the glass softens. The successively more red-shifted spectra have no isoemissive wavelength, which supports the view that reorientation of several solvent molecules in the solvent shell of the excited TRP molecule and not a 1:1 exciplex is responsible for the red shift. The quantum yield remains constant until a temperature is reached at which solvent reorientation is virtually complete. Above that temperature, the quenching of the 355-nm emission can be fitted with a nonradiative de-excitation having an activation energy of 7 kcal/mole. A model for these spectral changes and quenching mechanism will be offered. In deuterated solvents, a large isotope effect of fluorescence yield of TRP has been reported. This effect is clearly not caused by proton transfer in the excited state since it is found to be virtually the same for TRP and 1-Me-TRP. At temperatures below those at which solvent reorientation occurs, the isotope effect vanishes, and above them it approaches an asymptotic value, the quenching activation energy being independent of the isotopic constitution of the solvent. The fluorescence of most proteins and hormones originates in their tryptophan residues. The quantum yields, isotope effects, and emission spectra of such polypeptides are compared with the corresponding parameters for solvated TRP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2069-2077
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Chemical Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1969
Externally publishedYes


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