Bacteriophage T4 lysozyme contains three tryptophan residues in distinct environments. Lysozymes with one or two of these residues replaced by tyrosine are used to characterize the photophysics of tryptophan in these individual sites. The fluorescence spectra, average lifetimes, and quantum yields of these three single-tryptophan variants are understandable in terms of the neighboring residues. The emission spectra and radiative lifetimes are found to be the same for all three species while the quantum yield and decay kinetics are quite distinct. The variation of the average nonradiative rate constant is correlated with neighboring quenching groups. Quenching by I− correlates with exposure of the tryptophan residue based on the crystal structure. Complex behavior is observed for the time dependence of the fluorescence decay in all three cases, including that of the immobile tryptophan-138 residue. The complexity of the fluorescence decay is ascribed to heterogeneity in the nonradiative rate constant among microstates. Energy transfer between tryptophan residues is inferred to occur from comparison of the quantum yields of the two-tryptophan and single-tryptophan proteins and is discussed in terms of the Forster mechanism.
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