Functional LnFe-NxHy Models of Biological N2 Fixation Nitrogenase (N2ase) is a metalloenzyme that mediates biological nitrogen fixation and is essential to sustain life. As such, the study of nitrogenase attracts intense scrutiny among the biology and chemistry communities. Nonetheless, the mechanism by which nitrogenase enzymes promote the biological reduction of nitrogen under ambient conditions remains a fascinating and unsolved problem. The broad goal of our research is to evaluate the mechanisms by which a single iron site is able to mediate catalytic N2 reduction in synthetic model systems and, by extension, in biology. The proposed program is to design and study biomimetic Fe-NxHy model complexes to address this goal. Our experimental approach stresses functionally, rather than structurally, faithful models of the iron-molybdenum cofactor (FeMoco). Low molecular weight Fe-NxHy complexes will be developed to explore iron sites in local 4- and 5-coordinate geometries that may accommodate dinitrogen and other NxHy functionalites. We posit these geometries as relevant to Fe-NxHy intermediates of the FeMoco. By analogy to the modes of biocatalytic O2 reduction, two limiting mechanisms will be evaluated. The first is an alternating mechanism, where successive protonations occur at the distal and proximal N-atoms of the Fe-N?N subunit in an alternating fashion (e.g., Fe-N=NH ? Fe-NH=NH ? Fe-NH-NH2 ? Fe-NH2-NH2 ? Fe-NH2 + NH3). The second is a distal mechanism, where complete protonation at the distal N-atom precedes protonation at the proximal N-atom (e.g., Fe-N2 + 3 e- + 3 H+? Fe?N + NH3). We will use synthetic model complexes to understand how the nuclearity, local geometry, and electronic structure of Fe- NxHy species control their relative stabilities and reactivity patterns. The intent is to apply this knowledge to design model systems that can facilitate catalytic N2ase activity. Regardless of the precise mechanism for nitrogen reduction at the FeMoco, its ultimate solution will require comparison of spectroscopic data from the cofactor to related data obtained for well-defined model complexes. We will collaborate with researchers that specialize in spectroscopic studies of the FeMoco to make such comparisons. In sum, the functional Fe-NxHy model chemistry proposed will continue to play a critical role alongside current biochemical, spectroscopic, and theoretical model studies aimed at unraveling the chemical mechanism of biological nitrogen fixation.

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Nitrogenase (N2ase) is an iron-rich metalloenzyme that mediates biological nitrogen fixation and is essential to life. Our goal is to use functional iron model complexes to test hypotheses concerning the mechanism of biological nitrogen reduction, and to discover model systems that facilitate catalytic nitrogen reduction. These model systems will provide data to help constrain a mechanistic interpretation of the nitrogenase cofactor.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
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Macromolecular Structure and Function A Study Section (MSFA)
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Anderson, Vernon
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California Institute of Technology
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Ung, Gaël; Peters, Jonas C (2015) Low-temperature N2 binding to two-coordinate L2Fe(0) enables reductive trapping of L2FeN2(-) and NH3 generation. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 54:532-5
Rittle, Jonathan; McCrory, Charles C L; Peters, Jonas C (2014) A 10(6)-fold enhancement in N2-binding affinity of an Fe2(?-H)2 core upon reduction to a mixed-valence Fe(II)Fe(I) state. J Am Chem Soc 136:13853-62
Anderson, John S; Peters, Jonas C (2014) Low-spin pseudotetrahedral iron(I) sites in Fe?(?-S) complexes. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 53:5978-81
Creutz, Sidney E; Peters, Jonas C (2014) Catalytic reduction of N2 to NH3 by an Fe-N2 complex featuring a C-atom anchor. J Am Chem Soc 136:1105-15
Anderson, John S; Rittle, Jonathan; Peters, Jonas C (2013) Catalytic conversion of nitrogen to ammonia by an iron model complex. Nature 501:84-7
Rittle, Jonathan; Peters, Jonas C (2013) Fe-N2/CO complexes that model a possible role for the interstitial C atom of FeMo-cofactor (FeMoco). Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:15898-903
Fong, Henry; Moret, Marc-Etienne; Lee, Yunho et al. (2013) Heterolytic H2 Cleavage and Catalytic Hydrogenation by an Iron Metallaboratrane. Organometallics 32:3053-3062
Anderson, John S; Moret, Marc-Etienne; Peters, Jonas C (2013) Conversion of Fe-NH2 to Fe-N2 with release of NH3. J Am Chem Soc 135:534-7
Suess, Daniel L M; Peters, Jonas C (2013) A CO-derived iron dicarbyne that releases olefin upon hydrogenation. J Am Chem Soc 135:12580-3
Suess, Daniel L M; Peters, Jonas C (2013) H-H and Si-H bond addition to FeýýýNNR2 intermediates derived from N2. J Am Chem Soc 135:4938-41

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