Many enzymes containing redox-active metal centers play significant roles in cellular function, and are often involved in a variety of physiologically important processes. In particular, several Mn-containing metalloproteins have emerged with functional roles in O2 metabolism since the identification of Mn as an essential metal in biological redox catalysis. These include a mitochondrial Mn-superoxide dismutase (SOD2) that detoxifies superoxide radicals into O2 and peroxide;a non-heme Mn-containing pseudocatalase that catalyzes the decomposition of peroxide into H2O and O2;and the oxygen-evolving complex (OEC) in photosystem II (PSII), which is possibly the most important due to its key role in the oxidation of H2O to O2 during photosynthesis. Nearly all of the atmospheric O2 that supports aerobic life is produced and replenished by the OEC through H2O oxidation;hence, this light-induced reaction is one of the most important biological redox processes found in nature. Although it is known that the OEC is composed of a heteronuclear Mn4CaOx cluster where four electrons are extracted in a stepwise manner from two H2O molecules to produce one O2 molecule, the detailed structure and mechanism of how this process occurs are not well understood. Furthermore, conventional X-ray crystallography and spectroscopy approaches are limited by the sensitivity of the redox-active metal complex to radiation damage by photoreduction. However, the recent development of the powerfully intense X-ray free electron laser (X-FEL) and application of the "collect before destroy" approach provide a viable option for overcoming this obstacle. Thus, a key objective of this proposal is to determine the structure of the intact OEC and elucidate the catalytic mechanism by which H2O is oxidized to O2 by mapping the time evolution of the Mn4CaOx cluster using this new X-FEL technology. Specifically, X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray emission spectra (XES) will be simultaneously measured from a continuous stream of PSII microcrystals with femtosecond X-FEL pulses in order to determine not only the electronic and geometric structure of the Mn4CaOx cluster, but also the integrity of the metal complex. Two fundamental points that are central to understanding photosynthetic water oxidation include: (i) the temporal evolution of the OEC electronic structure, and (ii) the structural dynamics in the ligand environment and Mn4CaOx cluster as it cycles through the catalytic steps. To address these points and map the light-induced chemical steps in real time, a combined laser excitation 'pump'and X-FEL 'probe'with variable time delays will be incorporated into the experimental setup. Not only will this study lead to an understanding of the mechanism of H2O oxidation to form O2, but the methodology developed here should also have broad applications as a model study for using X-FELs to determine structure and dynamics in other physiologically important membrane proteins and redox- active metalloenzymes that are prone to X-ray radiation damage.

Public Health Relevance

Many enzymes containing metal centers play significant roles in cellular function, and are involved in a variety of physiologically important processes. In particular, the metal-centered oxygen-evolving complex catalyzes the generation of O2 from H2O as part of the O2 metabolism cycle, which is critical for sustaining all aerobic life on Earth. These proposed studies aim to elucidate the mechanism of how O2 is formed from H2O by the oxygen-evolving complex using novel methodology that will have broad applications in biomedical research for determining the chemistry and structural dynamics in other physiologically important metal-centered enzymes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F04B-D (20))
Program Officer
Flicker, Paula F
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Other Basic Sciences
Organized Research Units
United States
Zip Code
Kern, Jan; Hattne, Johan; Tran, Rosalie et al. (2014) Methods development for diffraction and spectroscopy studies of metalloenzymes at X-ray free-electron lasers. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 369:20130590
Kanady, Jacob S; Tran, Rosalie; Stull, Jamie A et al. (2013) Role of Oxido Incorporation and Ligand Lability in Expanding Redox Accessibility of Structurally Related Mn4 Clusters. Chem Sci 4:3986-3996
Tsui, Emily Y; Tran, Rosalie; Yano, Junko et al. (2013) Redox-inactive metals modulate the reduction potential in heterometallic manganese-oxido clusters. Nat Chem 5:293-9