Nitrogenase is activated for N2 reduction through the accumulation of four reducing equivalents at the active-site FeMo-cofactor (FeMo-co: Fe7S9MoC; homocitrate) to form the key Janus intermediate, denoted E4(4H), whose lowest-energy structure contains two [Fe-H-Fe] bridging hydrides and two protons bound to the sulfurs that also bridge the Fe pairs. In the critical step of catalysis, a H2 complex transiently produced by reductive elimination (re) of the hydrides of E4(4H), denoted E4(H2;2H), undergoes H2 displacement by N2, which then undergoes the otherwise energetically unfavorable cleavage of the NN triple bond. In pursuing the study of the re activation process, we have employed a photochemical approach to obtaining its atomic-level details. Continuous 450 nm irradiation of the ground state of the dihydride Janus intermediate, denoted E4(4H)a, in an EPR cavity at cryogenic temperatures causes photoinduced re of H2 to generate E4(H2;2H). We here extend this photochemical approach with time-resolved EPR studies of the photolysis process on the ns time scale. These studies reveal an additional intermediate in the catalytic reductive elimination process, an isomer of the E4(4H) FeMo-co metal-ion core that is formed prior to E4(H2;2H) and is thought to be created by breaking an Fe-SH bond, thus further integrating the calculational and structural studies into the experimentally determined mechanism by which nitrogenase is activated to cleave the NN triple bond.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry