Guanine-cytosine hairpins, containing a hexaethylene glycol bridge, are studied by steady-state fluorescence spectroscopy and time-correlated single photon counting; their properties are compared to those of duplexes with the same sequence. It is shown that, both in hairpins and in duplexes, base pairing induces quenching of the ππ* fluorescence, the quantum yield decreasing by at least two orders of magnitude. When the size of the systems increases from two to ten base pairs, a fluorescent component decaying on the nanosecond time-scale appears at energy higher than that stemming from the bright states of non-interacting mono-nucleotides (ca. 330 nm). For ten base pairs, this new fluorescence forms a well-defined band peaking at 305 nm. Its intensity is about 20% higher for the hairpin compared to the duplex. Its position (red-shifted by 1600 cm-1) and width (broader by 1800 cm-1 FWHM) differ from those observed for large duplexes containing 1000 base pairs, suggesting the involvement of electronic coupling. Fluorescence anisotropy reveals that the excited states responsible for high energy emission are not populated directly upon photon absorption but are reached during a relaxation process. They are assigned to charge transfer states. According to the emerging picture, the amplitude of conformational motions determines whether instantaneous deactivation to the ground state or emission from charge transfer states will take place, while ππ* fluorescence is associated to imperfect base-pairing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry