De novo design of synthetic di-iron(I) complexes as structural models of the reduced form of iron-iron hydrogenase.
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Simple synthetic di-iron dithiolate complexes provide good models of the composition of the active site of the iron-iron hydrogenase enzymes. However, the formally Fe(I)Fe(I) complexes synthesized to date fail to reproduce the precise orientation of the diatomic ligands about the iron centers that is observed in the molecular structure of the reduced form of the enzyme active site. This structural difference is often used to explain the fact that the synthetic di-iron complexes are generally poor catalysts when compared to the enzyme. Herein, density functional theory computations are used for the rational design of synthetic complexes as structural models of the reduced form of the enzyme active site. These computations suggest several possible synthetic targets. The synthesis of complexes containing five-atom S-to-S linkers of the form S(CH2)2X(CH2)2S (X = CH2, NH, or O) or pendant functionalities attached to the three-carbon framework is one method. Another approach is the synthesis of asymmetrically substituted complexes, in which one iron center has strongly electron donating ligands and the adjacent iron center has strongly electron accepting ligands. The combination of a sterically demanding S-to-S linker and asymmetric substitution of the CO ligands is predicted to be a particularly effective synthetic target.