Primary processes underlying the photostability of isolated DNA bases: Adenine

Helmut Satzger, David Townsend, Marek Z Zgierski, Serguei Patchkovskii, Susanne Ullrich, Albert Stolow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Citations (Scopus)


The UV chromophores in DNA are the nucleic bases themselves, and it is their photophysics and photochemistry that govern the intrinsic photostability of DNA. Because stability is related to the conversion of dangerous electronic to less-dangerous vibrational energy, we study ultrafast electronic relaxation processes in the DNA base adenine. We excite adenine, isolated in a molecular beam, to its pi pi* state and follow its relaxation dynamics using femtosecond time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy. To discern which processes are important on which timescales, we compare adenine with 9-methyl adenine. Methylation blocks the site of the much-discussed pi sigma* state that had been thought, until now, minor. Time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy reveals that, although adenine and 9-methyl adenine show almost identical timescales for the processes involved, the decay pathways are quite different. Importantly, we confirm that in adenine at 267-nm excitation, the pi sigma* state plays a major role. We discuss these results in the context of recent experimental and theoretical studies on adenine, proposing a model that accounts for all known results, and consider the relationship between these studies and electron-induced damage in DNA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10196-10201
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2006


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