Photo-oxidative processes occurring in wool can lead to significant photoyellowing of the fiber. In particular, wool that has been chemically bleached photoyellows more rapidly and to a greater degree than untreated wool. Direct identification of the chromophores responsible for such yellow discoloration in irradiated wool has proven to be elusive for many years. This article describes the characterization and location of yellow photo-oxidation products within the proteins of photoyellowed bleached wool fabric, using advanced protein chemistry techniques. The discolored fabric was enzymatically digested and chromatographed by high-pressure liquid chromatography, with monitoring at 400 nm, to select out fractions containing yellow chromophoric species. Thorough tandem mass spectrometric analysis was then used to sequence peptides and, in turn, to characterize modifications to key amino acid residues that had resulted in yellow chromophore formation. In total, 11 separate yellow chromophoric species were identified, ten derived from tryptophan residues and one from tyrosine. The tryptophan-derived modifications characterized included hydroxytryptophan, N-formylkynurenine, hydroxyformylkynurenine, kynurenine, hydroxykynurenine, carbolines, tryptophandiones and nitrotryptophan. The tyrosine-derived modification of tyrosine to dopa was also identified. The range of photomodifications we observed provides insight into the photo-oxidation pathways occurring within irradiated fibrous proteins leading to the formation of yellow chromophores.
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Vol. 82 • No. 2