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Fluorescent Amino Acid Undergoing Excited State Intramolecular Proton Transfer for Site-Specific Probing and Imaging of Peptide Interactions Sholokh M, Zamotaiev OM, Das R, Postupalenko VY, Richert L, Dujardin D, Zaporozhets OA, Pivovarenko VG, Klymchenko AS,   Mély Y, J. Phys. Chem. B, Article ASAP

Fluorescent amino acids bearing environment-sensitive fluorophores are highly valuable tools for site-selective probing of peptide/ligand interactions. Herein, we synthesized a fluorescentl-amino acid bearing the 4′-methoxy-3-hydroxyflavone fluorophore (M3HFaa) that shows dual emission, as a result of an excited state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT). The dual emission of M3HFaa was found to be substantially more sensitive to hydration as compared to previous analogues. By replacing the Ala30 and Trp37 residues of a HIV-1 nucleocapsidpeptide, M3HFaa was observed to preserve the peptide structure and functions. Interaction of the labeled peptides with nucleic acids and lipid vesicles produced a strong switch in their dual emission, favoring the emission of the ESIPT product. This switch was associated with the appearance of long-lived fluorescence lifetimes for the ESIPT product, as a consequence of the rigid environment in the complexes that restricted the relative motions of the M3HFaa aromatic moieties. The strongest restriction and thus the longest fluorescence lifetimes were observed at position 37 in complexes with nucleic acids, where the probe likely stacks with the nucleobases. Based on the dependence of the lifetime values on the nature of the ligand and the labeled position, two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging was used to identify the binding partners of the labeled peptides microinjected into living cells. Thus, M3HFaa appears as a sensitive tool for monitoring site selective peptide interactions in solution and living cells.