Molecular mechanism of photosynthetic oxygen evolution: A theoretical approach

Davide M. Proserpio, Roald Hoffmann, G Charles Dismukes

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70 Citations (Scopus)


Possible mechanisms for O2 evolution in photosystem II (PSII) are studied with a semiempirical one-electron molecular orbital procedure, the extended Hückel method. The oxygen coupling is examined starting from some known inorganic complexes of manganese. Idealized geometries of four binuclear complexes (two di-μ-oxo, one tri-μ-oxo and one μ-carboxylato-di-μ-oxo) are distorted to transform into O2-bound complexes. The computed Walsh diagrams are analyzed. For these structures the predicted oxidation to dioxygen is energetically unfavorable and would require two two-electron steps forming bound peroxide as an intermediate. An in-plane approach of two oxo ligands has a lower barrier for peroxide bond formation. Four tetranuclear Mn clusters are built combining binuclear complexes, a Mn4O4 cubane-like core, three (Mn2O2)2(μ-O2) "dimer of dimers" cores with μ42-O2 bound either in or out of the Mn4 plane formed by two parallel Mn2O2 units, and a "planar T" combination of two orthogonal Mn2O2 units with a Mn3O2 core and μ32-O2 bound to three Mn atoms. The assumed pathway leading to peroxide bond formation in each of these is found to have appreciably lower energy for the (Mn2O2)2(μ-O2) and the "planar T" models with in-plane O-O approach. A slight energetic advantage is calculated in the peroxide to dioxygen step when the oxo ligands are coordinated to at least three Mn ions compared to coordination to only two Mn ions. Qualitative valence bond analysis indicates that release of symmetrically coordinated dioxygen, as in cis- and trans-μ-O2, requires overcoming an ∼1-eV electronic barrier for formation of ground-state O2 (triplet). The tetranuclear models are introduced into speculative mechanisms and compared with current knowledge of the photosynthetic water oxidation reaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4374-4382
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)

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