A Density Functional Theory Study on the Active Center of Fe-Only Hydrogenase: Characterization and Electronic Structure of the Redox States

Zhi-Pan Liu, P Hu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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166 Citations (Scopus)


We have carried out extensive density functional theory (DFT) calculations for possible redox states of the active center in Fe-only hydrogenases. The active center is modeled by [(H(CH(3))S)(CO)(CN(-))Fe(p)(mu-DTN)(mu-CO)Fe(d)(CO)(CN(-))(L)](z) (z is the net charge in the complex; Fe(p)= the proximal Fe, Fe(d) = the distal Fe, DTN = (-SCH(2)NHCH(2)S-), L is the ligand that bonds with the Fed at the trans position to the bridging CO). Structures of possible redox states are optimized, and CO stretching frequencies are calculated. By a detailed comparison of all the calculated structures and the vibrational frequencies with the available experimental data, we find that (i) the fully oxidized, inactive state is an Fe(II)-Fe(II) state with a hydroxyl (OH(-)) group bonded at the Fe(d), (ii) the oxidized, active state is an Fe(II)-Fe(l) complex which is consistent with the assignment of Cao and Hall (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2001, 123, 3734), and (iii) the fully reduced state is a mixture with the major component being a protonated Fe(l)-Fe(l) complex and the other component being its self-arranged form, Fe(II)-Fe(II) hydride, Our calculations also show that the exogenous CO can strongly bond with the Fe(II)-Fe(l) species, but cannot bond with the Fe(l)-Fe(l) complex. This result is consistent with experiments that CO tends to inhibit the oxidized, active state, but not the fully reduced state. The electronic structures of all the redox states have been analyzed. It is found that a frontier orbital which is a mixing state between the e(g) of Fe and the 2pi of the bridging CO plays a key role concerning the reactivity of Fe-only hydrogenases: (1) it is unoccupied in the fully oxidized, inactive state, half-occupied in the oxidized, active state, and fully occupied in the fully reduced state; (ii) the e(g)-2pi orbital is a bonding state, and this is the key reason for stability of the low oxidation states, such as Fe(l)-Fe(l) complexes; and (iii) in the e(g)-2pi orbital more charge accumulates between the bridging CO and the Fe(d) than between the bridging CO and the Fe(p), and the occupation increase in this orbital will enhance the bonding between the bridging CO and the Fe(d), leading to the bridging-CO shift toward the Fe(d).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5175-5182
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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