December 30, 2020
Journal Article

Electron Redistribution within the Nitrogenase Active Site FeMo-Cofactor During Reductive Elimination of H2 to Achieve N=N Triple-Bond Activation


Nitrogen fixation by nitrogenase begins with accumulation of four reducing equivalents at the active-site FeMo-cofactor (FeMo-co), generating a state (denoted E4(4H)) with two [Fe-H-Fe] bridging hydrides. Recently, photolytic reductive elimination (re) of the E4(4H) hydrides showed that enzymatic re of E4(4H) hydride yields an H2-bound complex (E4(H2,2H)), in a process corresponding to a formal 2-electron reduction of the metal-ion core of FeMo-co. The resulting electron-density redistribution from Fe-H bonds to the metal ions themselves enables N2 to bind with concomitant H2 release, a process illuminated here by QM/MM molecular dynamics simulations. What is the nature of this redistribution? Although E4(H2,2H) hasn’t been trapped, cryogenic photolysis of E4(4H) provides a means to address this question. Photolysis of E4(4H) causes hydride-re with release of H2, generating doubly-reduced FeMo-co (denoted E4(2H)*), the extreme limit of the electron-density redistribution upon formation of E4(H2,2H). Here we examine the doubly-reduced FeMo-co core of the E4(2H)* limiting-state by 1H, 57Fe, and 95Mo ENDOR to illuminate the partial electron-density redistribution upon E4(H2,2H) formation during catalysis, complementing these results with corresponding DFT computations. Inferences from the E4(2H)* ENDOR results as extended by DFT computations include: (i) the Mo-site participates negligibly, and overall it is unlikely that Mo changes valency throughout the catalytic cycle; (ii) two distinctive E4(4H) 57Fe signals are suggested as associated with ‘anchors’ of one bridging hydride, two others with anchors of the second, with NBO-analysis identifying one anchor of each hydride as a major recipient of electrons released upon breaking Fe-H bonds.

Revised: February 24, 2021 | Published: December 30, 2020


Lukoyanov D., Z. Yang, D.R. Dean, L.C. Seefeldt, S. Raugei, and B. Hoffman. 2020. Electron Redistribution within the Nitrogenase Active Site FeMo-cofactor During Reductive Elimination of H2 to Achieve N=N Triple-Bond Activation. Journal of the American Chemical Society 142, no. 52:21679-21690. PNNL-SA-154488. doi:10.1021/jacs.0c07914