The goal of this project is to prepare and characterize functional and spectroscopic models for the active sites of the two main metalloenzymes that process hydrogen, the [FeFe]- and [NiFe]-hydrogenases. Such models will provide mechanistic insights into these enzymes and will underpin other advances: (i) define the roles for reduced iron in biological systems, (ii) opportunities for combating diseases caused by organisms that utilize hydrogen in their metabolism, and (ii) lead to new reagents and catalysts for using hydrogen, relevant to the synthesis of many pharmaceuticals. The work focuses mainly on the [FeFe]-hydrogenases, exploiting advances in our modeling both the reduced and oxidized states of this enzyme. An emerging effort builds on a recent breakthrough relevant to the [NiFe]-hydrogenases, which are particularly widespread. Much of the work focuses on the mixed valence Hox state of [FeFe]-hydrogenases, beginning with a recent discovery that H2 is activated by a biomimetic Hox model. The key to this advance is the incorporation of the azadithiolate cofactor into the synthetic analogues. These functionally competent models will be characterized spectroscopically and through isotopical labeling. For the other direction of this enzyme's action - H2 production - we will examine the protonation of reduced biomimetic systems, elucidating factors that control the regiochemistry and redox of the hydrides. Finally, a building block approach is described in the assembly of biomimetic models for the [NiFe]-hydrogenases. Preliminary studies demonstrate the assembly and characterization of a nearly complete active site model. Overall the work promises to clarify the pathways by which nature uses and produces hydrogen. The biochemistry and the underlying inorganic chemistry are highly unusual. Many of these questions cannot be fully addressed with the protein due to the invisibility of hydrogen to crystallography and the presence of interfering chromophores. The work underpins new bioinorganic chemistry involving H2 and hydride ligands.

Public Health Relevance

An H2-based metabolism supports the pathogen H. pylori, estimated to be responsible for 80-90% of all gastric and duodenal cancers. This bacterium infects half of the world's population and 50M Americans. Hydrogen is a constituent of the atmosphere in the human gut.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Macromolecular Structure and Function A Study Section (MSFA)
Program Officer
Anderson, Vernon
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Li, Qianli; Lalaoui, Noémie; Woods, Toby J et al. (2018) Electron-Rich, Diiron Bis(monothiolato) Carbonyls: C-S Bond Homolysis in a Mixed Valence Diiron Dithiolate. Inorg Chem 57:4409-4418
Sommer, Constanze; Richers, Casseday P; Lubitz, Wolfgang et al. (2018) A [RuRu] Analogue of an [FeFe]-Hydrogenase Traps the Key Hydride Intermediate of the Catalytic Cycle. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 57:5429-5432
Carlson, Michaela R; Gray, Danielle L; Richers, Casseday P et al. (2018) Sterically Stabilized Terminal Hydride of a Diiron Dithiolate. Inorg Chem 57:1988-2001
Pelmenschikov, Vladimir; Birrell, James A; Pham, Cindy C et al. (2017) Reaction Coordinate Leading to H2 Production in [FeFe]-Hydrogenase Identified by Nuclear Resonance Vibrational Spectroscopy and Density Functional Theory. J Am Chem Soc 139:16894-16902
Lalaoui, Noémie; Woods, Toby; Rauchfuss, Thomas B et al. (2017) Characterization of a Borane ? Complex of a Diiron Dithiolate: Model for an Elusive Dihydrogen Adduct. Organometallics 36:2054-2057
Yu, Xin; Tung, Chen-Ho; Wang, Wenguang et al. (2017) Interplay between Terminal and Bridging Diiron Hydrides in Neutral and Oxidized States. Organometallics 36:2245-2253
Schilter, David; Gray, Danielle L; Fuller, Amy L et al. (2017) Synthetic Models for Nickel-Iron Hydrogenase Featuring Redox-Active Ligands. Aust J Chem 70:505-515
Reijerse, Edward J; Pham, Cindy C; Pelmenschikov, Vladimir et al. (2017) Direct Observation of an Iron-Bound Terminal Hydride in [FeFe]-Hydrogenase by Nuclear Resonance Vibrational Spectroscopy. J Am Chem Soc 139:4306-4309
Carlson, Michaela R; Gilbert-Wilson, Ryan; Gray, Danielle R et al. (2017) Diiron Dithiolate Hydrides Complemented with Proton-Responsive Phosphine-Amine Ligands. Eur J Inorg Chem 2017:3169-3173
Zhao, Peihua; Gray, Danielle L; Rauchfuss, Thomas B (2016) Rational Synthesis of the Carbonyl(perthiolato)diiron [Fe2(S3CPh2)(CO)6] and Related Complexes. Eur J Inorg Chem 2016:2681-2683

Showing the most recent 10 out of 69 publications