The flavoprotein AppA is a blue-light photoreceptor that functions as an antirepressor of photosynthesis gene expression in the purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Heterologous expression studies show that FAD binds to a 156 amino acid N-terminal domain of AppA and that this domain is itself photoactive. A pulse of white light causes FAD absorption to be red shifted in a biphasic process with a fast phase occurring in < 1 mus and a slow phase occurring at approximately 5 ms. The absorbance shift was spontaneously restored over a 30 min period, also in a biphasic process as assayed by fluorescence quenching and electronic absorption analyses. Site-directed replacement of Tyr21 with Leu or Phe abolished the photochemical reaction implicating involvement of Tyr21 in the photocycle. Nuclear magnetic resonance analysis of wild-type and mutant proteins also indicates that Tyr21 forms pi-pi stacking interactions with the isoalloxazine ring of FAD. We propose that photochemical excitation of the flavin results in strengthening of a hydrogen bond between the flavin and Tyr 21 leading to a stable local conformational change in AppA.
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