Ultrafast repair of irradiated DNA: nonadiabatic ab initio simulations of the guanine-cytosine photocycle

Phineus R L Markwick, Nikos L Doltsinis
Journal of Chemical Physics 2007 May 7, 126 (17): 175102
Nonadiabatic first-principles molecular dynamics simulations have been performed of the photoexcited Watson-Crick guanine-cytosine (GC) DNA base pair in the gas phase and in aqueous solution. An excited state coupled proton-electron transfer (CPET) from G to C along the central hydrogen bond is observed upon excitation of the pipi* state initially localized on G. In the resulting charge transfer state a conical intersection between the excited state and the ground state is easily accessible. Therefore radiationless decay is fast, of the order of 100 fs, followed by a rapid CPET back reaction retrieving the initial Watson-Crick structure. A detailed analysis of the mechanism of nonradiative decay suggests a biexponential behavior in which out-of-plane motion plays a special role for the longer decay component.

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