Photolysis and recombination of carboxymyoglobin at low temperatures have been studied by a variety of methods. This paper combines optical and structural studies of carboxymyoglobin photolysis and recombination in the temperature range 4–120 K. The absorbance changes indicate ablation of the characteristic optical transitions of carboxymyoglobin and formation of a photoproduct (Mb*CO) differing from deoxymyoglobin. When the X-ray absorption changes in the 7150–7200-eV region of the X-ray absorption spectrum are used as an indicator of structural change, the photoproduct at 4 K as measured with respect to the unphotolyzed sample is 60% of that observed for the chemically produced deoxy form. Saturation of the change is obtained with repetitive flashes totaling several thousand joules of energy from a xenon flash lamp by using a thin sample (1 mm) at 4 mM concentration as measured by both optical transmission and X-ray absorption criteria. The kinetics of the reaction show the change to occur at 10 K within the resolving time currently available (2 s) in the X-ray absorption measurements. The amplitude of the light-induced change decreases to half its maximal value at 40 K and to zero at 90 K. Steady illumination suggests at least two recombination processes. Analysis of the extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) data on Mb*CO indicates small distance changes in the first shell of Fe-N and Fe-C that can be attributed to lengthening of the pyrrole nitrogen bonds and proximal histidine motion, together with a small displacement of the CO molecule on photolysis—a form here designated Mb*CO. This structure of the geminate state, Mb*CO, may elucidate the nature of elementary steps in chemical reactions and in tunneling processes.
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