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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Local electronic structure of histidine in aqueous solution.


The local electronic structure of aqueous histidine, an amino acid important in nature and biology, is revealed by aerosol X-ray photoemission spectroscopy. A detailed picture of the photoionization dynamics emerges by tuning the pH of the aqueous solution from which the aerosols are generated, allowing us to report the X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) of histidine. Assignment of the experimental photoelectron spectra of the C1s and N1s levels allows the determination of the protonation state of histidine in these aqueous aerosols and is confirmed by density functional calculations. XPS spectra show that at pH = 1, both imidazole and amine group nitrogens are protonated, at pH = 7, the amine group nitrogen is protonated and the carboxyl group carbon is deprotonated resulting in a zwitterionic structure, and at pH = 13, only the carboxyl group remains deprotonated. Comparison of these results with previous experimental and theoretical results suggests that X-ray spectroscopy on aqueous aerosols can provide a convenient and simple way of probing their electronic structure in aqueous solutions.

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