Biomimetics of [NiFe]-Hydrogenase: Nickel- or Iron-Centered Proton Reduction Catalysis?
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The [NiFe] hydrogenase (H2ase) has been characterized in the Ni-R state with a hydride bridging between Fe and Ni but displaced toward the Ni. In nearly all of the synthetic Ni-R models reported so far, the hydride ligand is either displaced toward Fe, or terminally bound to Fe. Recently, a structural and functional [NiFe]-H2ase mimic ( Nat. Chem. 2016 , 8 , 1054 - 1060 ) was reported to produce H2 catalytically via EECC mechanism through a Ni-centered hydride intermediate like the enzyme. Here, a comprehensive DFT study shows a much lower energy route via an E[ECEC] mechanism through an Fe-centered hydride intermediate. Although catalytic H2 production occurs at the potential corresponding to the complex's second reduction, a third electron is needed to induce the second proton addition from the weak acid. The first two-electron reductions and a proton addition produce a semibridging hydride with a short Fe-H bond like other structured [NiFe]-biomimetics, but this species is not basic enough to add another proton from the weak acid without the third electron. The calculated mechanism provides insight into the origin of this structure in the enzyme.