An organometallic intermediate during alkyne reduction by nitrogenase. Academic Article uri icon


  • Nitrogenase is the metalloenzyme that catalyzes the nucleotide-dependent reduction of N(2), as well as reduction of a variety of other triply bonded substrates, including the alkyne, acetylene. Substitution of the alpha-70(Val) residue in the nitrogenase MoFe protein by alanine expands the range of substrates to include short-chain alkynes not reduced by the unaltered protein. Rapid freezing of the alpha-70(Ala) nitrogenase MoFe protein during reduction of the alkyne propargyl alcohol (HC triple bond CH(2)OH; PA) traps an S = (1)/(2) intermediate state of the active-site metal cluster, the FeMo-cofactor. We have combined CW and pulsed (13)C ENDOR (electron-nuclear double resonance) with two quantitative 35 GHz (1,2)H ENDOR techniques, Mims pulsed ENDOR and the newly devised "stochastic field-modulated" ENDOR, to study this intermediate prepared with isotopically substituted ((13)C, (1,2)H) propargyl alcohol in H(2)O and D(2)O buffers. These measurements allow the first description of a trapped nitrogenase reduction intermediate. The S = (1)/(2) turnover intermediate generated during the reduction of PA contains the 3-carbon chain of PA and exhibits resolved (1,2)H ENDOR signals from three protons, two strongly coupled (H(a)) and one weakly coupled (H(b)); H(a)(c) originates as the C3 proton of PA, while H(a)(s) and H(b) are solvent-derived. The two H(a) protons have identical hyperfine tensors, despite having different origins. The equality of the (H(a)(s), H(a)(c)) hyperfine tensors strongly constrains proposals for the structure of the cluster-bound reduced PA. Through consideration of model structures found in the Cambridge Structural Database, we propose that the intermediate contains a novel bio-organometallic complex in which a reduction product of propargyl alcohol binds as a metalla-cyclopropane ring to a single Fe atom of the Fe-S face of the FeMo-cofactor that is composed of Fe atoms 2, 3, 6, and 7. Of the two most attractive structures, one singly reduced at C3 (4), the other being the doubly reduced allyl alcohol product (6), we tentatively favor 6 because of the "natural" assignment it affords for H(b).

published proceedings

  • J Am Chem Soc

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, H., Igarashi, R. Y., Laryukhin, M., Doan, P. E., Dos Santos, P. C., Dean, D. R., Seefeldt, L. C., & Hoffman, B. M

citation count

  • 114

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Hong-In||Igarashi, Robert Y||Laryukhin, Mikhail||Doan, Peter E||Dos Santos, Patricia C||Dean, Dennis R||Seefeldt, Lance C||Hoffman, Brian M

publication date

  • August 2004