M. Alaraby Salem and A. Brown*
J. Chem. Theory Comp. 10 (8), 3260–3269.
Publication year: 2014

Two-photon spectroscopy of fluorescent proteins is a powerful bioimaging tool. Considerable effort has been made to measure absolute two-photon absorption (TPA) for the available fluorescent proteins. Being a technically involved procedure, there is significant variation in the published experimental measurements even for the same protein. In this work, we present a time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) study on isolated chromophores comparing the ability of four functionals (PBE0, B3LYP, CAM-B3LYP, and LC-BLYP) combined with the 6-31+G(d,p) basis set to reproduce averaged experimental TPA energies and cross sections. The TDDFT energies and TPA cross sections are also compared to corresponding CC2/6-31+G(d,p) results for excitation to S1 for the five smallest chromophores. In general, the computed TPA energies are less functional dependent than the TPA cross sections. The variation between functionals is more pronounced when higher-energy transitions are studied. Changes to the conformation of a chromophore are shown to change the TPA cross-section considerably. This adds to the difficulty of comparing an isolated chromophore to the one embedded in the protein environment. All functionals considered give moderate agreement with the corresponding CC2 results; in general, the TPA cross sections determined by TDDFT are 1.5–10 times smaller than the corresponding CC2 values for excitation to S1. LC-BLYP and CAM-B3LYP give erroneously large TPA cross sections in the higher-energy regions. On the other hand, B3LYP and PBE0 yield values that are of the same order of magnitude and in some cases very close to the averaged experimental data. Thus, based on the results reported here, B3LYP and PBE0 are the preferred functionals for screening chromphores for TPA. However, at best, TDDFT can be used to semiquantitatively scan chromophores for potential TPA probes and highlight spectroscopic peaks that could be present in the mature protein.