Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemistry & Biochemistry

First Advisor

Ralph Jimenez

Second Advisor

Steven Cundiff

Third Advisor

David Jonas

Fourth Advisor

Niels Damrauer

Fifth Advisor

Robert Parson


Red-emitting homologues (RFPs) of the native Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) with emission wavelengths beyond 650 nm are desirable probes for in vivo imaging experiments. They offer the potential for deeper tissue penetration and lower background scatter given a cleaner spectral window. However, bioimaging applications are hindered by poor photophysics (e.g. low fluorescence quantum yield, high photobleaching), which limits experimental resolution and represents a significant obstacle towards utilization for low copy-number, long-duration imaging applications. In this thesis, a variety of femtosecond nonlinear electronic spectroscopies were employed jointly with site-directed mutagenesis to investigate the photophysical properties of RFPs. In one study, the molecular mechanism of red emission was pursued in two notable RFPs, mPlum and TagRFP675. Solvation dynamics observed with time-resolved transient grating spectroscopy were interpreted with the aid of molecular dynamics simulations to indicate that their red-emission is correlated with the ability of specific chromophore-sidechain hydrogen-bonding interactions to interconvert between direct and water-mediated states. In a second set of studies, two-dimensional double quantum coherence spectroscopy was used to probe the electronic transitions of mPlum. It was discovered that it displayed a response distinctly different from an organic dye in bulk solvent. Modeling indicate of these spectra indicate the spectral features may be attributed to the existence of multiple high-lying (n>1) excited states. The results provide new insight into the electronic structure of these widely used fluorescent probes.