Raman optical activity comes of age

Laurence D. Barron, Lutz Hecht, Iain H. McColl, Ewan W. Blanch

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The theory and applications of Raman optical activity (ROA), which measures vibrational optical activity by means of a small difference in the intensity of Raman scattering from chiral molecules in right- and left-circularly polarized incident light or, equivalently, a small circularly polarized component in the scattered light, are briefly reviewed. Thanks to new developments in instrumentation, ROA may be applied to a wide range of chiral molecular species. As well as providing the absolute configuration of small chiral molecules, the application of ab initio methods to the analysis of experimental ROA spectra holds great promise for the determination of the three-dimensional structure and conformational distribution in unprecedented detail. The many structure-sensitive bands in the ROA spectra of aqueous solutions of biomolecules provide detailed structural information including, in the case of proteins, the tertiary fold in addition to secondary structure elements such as helix and sheet. ROA studies of unfolded and partially folded proteins are providing new insight into the residual structure in denatured proteins and the aberrant behaviour of proteins responsible for misfolding diseases. It is even possible to measure the ROA spectra of most intact viruses, from which information about the folds of the major coat proteins and the structure of the nucleic acid core may be obtained. Hopefully this review will stimulate interest in the molecular physics aspects of the subject, and will encourage further theoretical work aimed at extracting maximum information from the plethora of structure-sensitive bands in typical ROA spectra.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)731-744
    Number of pages13
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2004


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