Conformational changes near the bacteriochlorophyll dimer induced by continuous illumination were identified in the wild type and 11 different mutants of reaction centers from Rhodobacter sphaeroides. The properties of the bacteriochlorophyll dimer, which has a different hydrogen bonding pattern with the surrounding protein in each mutant, were characterized by steady-state and transient optical spectroscopy. After illumination for 1 min, in the absence of the secondary quinone, the recovery of the charge-separated states was nearly 1 order of magnitude slower in one group of mutants including the wild type than in the mutants carrying the Leu to His mutation at the L131 position. The slower recovery was accompanied by a substantial decrease in the electrochromic absorption changes associated with the Qy bands of the nearby monomers during the illumination. The other set of mutants containing the Leu L131 to His substitution exhibited slightly altered electrochromic changes that decreased only half as much during the illumination as in the other family of mutants. The correlation between the recovery of the charge-separated states in the light-induced conformation and the electrochromic absorption changes suggests a dielectric relaxation of the protein that stabilizes the charge on the dimer.
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