All Publications

  • Mechanisms of O2 Activation by Mononuclear Non-Heme Iron Enzymes. Biochemistry Solomon, E. I., DeWeese, D. E., Babicz, J. T. 2021


    Two major subclasses of mononuclear non-heme ferrous enzymes use two electron-donating organic cofactors (alpha-ketoglutarate or pterin) to activate O2 to form FeIV═O intermediates that further react with their substrates through hydrogen atom abstraction or electrophilic aromatic substitution. New spectroscopic methodologies have been developed, enabling the study of the active sites in these enzymes and their oxygen intermediates. Coupled to electronic structure calculations, the results of these spectroscopies provide fundamental insight into mechanism. This Perspective summarizes the results of these studies in elucidating the mechanism of dioxygen activation to form the FeIV═O intermediate and the geometric and electronic structure of this intermediate that enables its high reactivity and selectivity in product formation.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.biochem.1c00370

    View details for PubMedID 34266238

  • Direct coordination of pterin to FeII enables neurotransmitter biosynthesis in the pterin-dependent hydroxylases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Iyer, S. R., Tidemand, K. D., Babicz, J. T., Jacobs, A. B., Gee, L. B., Haahr, L. T., Yoda, Y., Kurokuzu, M., Kitao, S., Saito, M., Seto, M., Christensen, H. E., Peters, G. H., Solomon, E. I. 2021; 118 (15)


    The pterin-dependent nonheme iron enzymes hydroxylate aromatic amino acids to perform the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters to maintain proper brain function. These enzymes activate oxygen using a pterin cofactor and an aromatic amino acid substrate bound to the FeII active site to form a highly reactive FeIV = O species that initiates substrate oxidation. In this study, using tryptophan hydroxylase, we have kinetically generated a pre-FeIV = O intermediate and characterized its structure as a FeII-peroxy-pterin species using absorption, Mossbauer, resonance Raman, and nuclear resonance vibrational spectroscopies. From parallel characterization of the pterin cofactor and tryptophan substrate-bound ternary FeII active site before the O2 reaction (including magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy), these studies both experimentally define the mechanism of FeIV = O formation and demonstrate that the carbonyl functional group on the pterin is directly coordinated to the FeII site in both the ternary complex and the peroxo intermediate. Reaction coordinate calculations predict a 14 kcal/mol reduction in the oxygen activation barrier due to the direct binding of the pterin carbonyl to the FeII site, as this interaction provides an orbital pathway for efficient electron transfer from the pterin cofactor to the iron center. This direct coordination of the pterin cofactor enables the biological function of the pterin-dependent hydroxylases and demonstrates a unified mechanism for oxygen activation by the cofactor-dependent nonheme iron enzymes.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2022379118

    View details for PubMedID 33876764

  • Nuclear Resonance Vibrational Spectroscopic Definition of the Fe(IV)2 Intermediate Q in Methane Monooxygenase and Its Reactivity. Journal of the American Chemical Society Jacobs, A. B., Banerjee, R., Deweese, D. E., Braun, A., Babicz, J. T., Gee, L. B., Sutherlin, K. D., Böttger, L. H., Yoda, Y., Saito, M., Kitao, S., Kobayashi, Y., Seto, M., Tamasaku, K., Lipscomb, J. D., Park, K., Solomon, E. I. 2021


    Methanotrophic bacteria utilize the nonheme diiron enzyme soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO) to convert methane to methanol in the first step of their metabolic cycle under copper-limiting conditions. The structure of the sMMO Fe(IV)2 intermediate Q responsible for activating the inert C-H bond of methane (BDE = 104 kcal/mol) remains controversial, with recent studies suggesting both "open" and "closed" core geometries for its active site. In this study, we employ nuclear resonance vibrational spectroscopy (NRVS) to probe the geometric and electronic structure of intermediate Q at cryogenic temperatures. These data demonstrate that Q decays rapidly during the NRVS experiment. Combining data from several years of measurements, we derive the NRVS vibrational features of intermediate Q as well as its cryoreduced decay product. A library of 90 open and closed core models of intermediate Q is generated using density functional theory to analyze the NRVS data of Q and its cryoreduced product as well as prior spectroscopic data on Q. Our analysis reveals that a subset of closed core models reproduce these newly acquired NRVS data as well as prior data. The reaction coordinate with methane is also evaluated using both closed and open core models of Q. These studies show that the potent reactivity of Q toward methane resides in the "spectator oxo" of its Fe(IV)2O2 core, in contrast to nonheme mononuclear Fe(IV)═O enzyme intermediates that H atoms abstract from weaker C-H bonds.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/jacs.1c05436

    View details for PubMedID 34570980

  • Valence-Dependent Electrical Conductivity in a 3D Tetrahydroxyquinone-Based Metal-Organic Framework. Journal of the American Chemical Society Chen, G., Gee, L. B., Xu, W., Zhu, Y., Lezama-Pacheco, J. S., Huang, Z., Li, Z., Babicz, J. T., Choudhury, S., Chang, T., Reed, E., Solomon, E. I., Bao, Z. 2020


    Electrically conductive metal-organic frameworks (cMOFs) have become a topic of intense interest in recent years because of their great potential in electrochemical energy storage, electrocatalysis, and sensing applications. Most of the cMOFs reported hitherto are 2D structures, and 3D cMOFs remain rare. Herein we report FeTHQ, a 3D cMOF synthesized from tetrahydroxy-1,4-quinone (THQ) and iron(II) sulfate salt. FeTHQ exhibited a conductivity of 3.3 ± 0.55 mS cm-1 at 300 K, which is high for 3D cMOFs. The conductivity of FeTHQ is valence-dependent. A higher conductivity was measured with the as-prepared FeTHQ than with the air-oxidized and sodium naphthalenide-reduced samples.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/jacs.0c09379

    View details for PubMedID 33315385

  • Evaluation of a concerted vs. sequential oxygen activation mechanism in α-ketoglutarate-dependent nonheme ferrous enzymes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Goudarzi, S. n., Iyer, S. R., Babicz, J. T., Yan, J. J., Peters, G. H., Christensen, H. E., Hedman, B. n., Hodgson, K. O., Solomon, E. I. 2020


    Determining the requirements for efficient oxygen (O2) activation is key to understanding how enzymes maintain efficacy and mitigate unproductive, often detrimental reactivity. For the α-ketoglutarate (αKG)-dependent nonheme iron enzymes, both a concerted mechanism (both cofactor and substrate binding prior to reaction with O2) and a sequential mechanism (cofactor binding and reaction with O2 precede substrate binding) have been proposed. Deacetoxycephalosporin C synthase (DAOCS) is an αKG-dependent nonheme iron enzyme for which both of these mechanisms have been invoked to generate an intermediate that catalyzes oxidative ring expansion of penicillin substrates in cephalosporin biosynthesis. Spectroscopy shows that, in contrast to other αKG-dependent enzymes (which are six coordinate when only αKG is bound to the FeII), αKG binding to FeII-DAOCS results in ∼45% five-coordinate sites that selectively react with O2 relative to the remaining six-coordinate sites. However, this reaction produces an FeIII species that does not catalyze productive ring expansion. Alternatively, simultaneous αKG and substrate binding to FeII-DAOCS produces five-coordinate sites that rapidly react with O2 to form an FeIV=O intermediate that then reacts with substrate to produce cephalosporin product. These results demonstrate that the concerted mechanism is operative in DAOCS and by extension, other nonheme iron enzymes.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1922484117

    View details for PubMedID 32094179

  • Mechanism of selective benzene hydroxylation catalyzed by iron-containing zeolites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Snyder, B. E., Bols, M. L., Rhoda, H. M., Vanelderen, P., Bottger, L. H., Braun, A., Yan, J. J., Hadt, R. G., Babicz, J. T., Hu, M. Y., Zhao, J., Alp, E. E., Hedman, B., Hodgson, K. O., Schoonheydt, R. A., Sels, B. F., Solomon, E. I. 2018


    A direct, catalytic conversion of benzene to phenol would have wide-reaching economic impacts. Fe zeolites exhibit a remarkable combination of high activity and selectivity in this conversion, leading to their past implementation at the pilot plant level. There were, however, issues related to catalyst deactivation for this process. Mechanistic insight could resolve these issues, and also provide a blueprint for achieving high performance in selective oxidation catalysis. Recently, we demonstrated that the active site of selective hydrocarbon oxidation in Fe zeolites, named alpha-O, is an unusually reactive Fe(IV)=O species. Here, we apply advanced spectroscopic techniques to determine that the reaction of this Fe(IV)=O intermediate with benzene in fact regenerates the reduced Fe(II) active site, enabling catalytic turnover. At the same time, a small fraction of Fe(III)-phenolate poisoned active sites form, defining a mechanism for catalyst deactivation. Density-functional theory calculations provide further insight into the experimentally defined mechanism. The extreme reactivity of alpha-O significantly tunes down (eliminates) the rate-limiting barrier for aromatic hydroxylation, leading to a diffusion-limited reaction coordinate. This favors hydroxylation of the rapidly diffusing benzene substrate over the slowly diffusing (but more reactive) oxygenated product, thereby enhancing selectivity. This defines a mechanism to simultaneously attain high activity (conversion) and selectivity, enabling the efficient oxidative upgrading of inert hydrocarbon substrates.

    View details for PubMedID 30429333

  • Spectroscopic and Electronic Structure Study of ETHE1: Elucidating the Factors Influencing Sulfur Oxidation and Oxygenation in Mononuclear Nonheme Iron Enzymes. Journal of the American Chemical Society Goudarzi, S., Babicz, J. T., Kabil, O., Banerjee, R., Solomon, E. I. 2018


    ETHE1 is a member of a growing subclass of nonheme Fe enzymes that catalyzes transformations of sulfur-containing substrates without a cofactor. ETHE1 dioxygenates glutathione persulfide (GSSH) to glutathione (GSH) and sulfite in a reaction which is similar to that of cysteine dioxygenase (CDO), but with monodentate (vs bidentate) substrate coordination and a 2-His/1-Asp (vs 3-His) ligand set. In this study, we demonstrate that GSS- binds directly to the iron active site, causing coordination unsaturation to prime the site for O2 activation. Nitrosyl complexes without and with GSSH were generated and spectroscopically characterized as unreactive analogues for the invoked ferric superoxide intermediate. New spectral features from persulfide binding to the FeIII include the appearance of a low-energy FeIII ligand field transition, an energy shift of a NO- to FeIII CT transition, and two new GSS- to FeIII CT transitions. Time-dependent density functional theory calculations were used to simulate the experimental spectra to determine the persulfide orientation. Correlation of these spectral features with those of monodentate cysteine binding in isopenicillin N synthase (IPNS) shows that the persulfide is a poorer donor but still results in an equivalent frontier molecular orbital for reactivity. The ETHE1 persulfide dioxygenation reaction coordinate was calculated, and while the initial steps are similar to the reaction coordinate of CDO, an additional hydrolysis step is required in ETHE1 to break the S-S bond. Unlike ETHE1 and CDO, which both oxygenate sulfur, IPNS oxidizes sulfur through an initial H atom abstraction. Thus, factors that determine oxygenase vs oxidase reactivity were evaluated. In general, sulfur oxygenation is thermodynamically favored and has a lower barrier for reactivity. However, in IPNS, second-sphere residues in the active site pocket constrain the substrate, raising the barrier for sulfur oxygenation relative to oxidation via H atom abstraction.

    View details for PubMedID 30362717

  • Kinetic and spectroscopic investigation of oxygen activation at a single iron center via Gibbs free energy coupling: Generation of an active alkane oxidation catalyst Cunningham, L., Babicz, J., Tucker, W., McCracken, J., Rybak-Akimova, E., Solomon, E., Caradonna, J. AMER CHEMICAL SOC. 2018
  • Correlating the structures and activities of the resting oxidized and native intermediate states of a small laccase by paramagnetic NMR JOURNAL OF INORGANIC BIOCHEMISTRY Machczynski, M. C., Babicz, J. T. 2016; 159: 62-69


    Multicopper oxidases (MCO) are the fastest and most efficient known catalysts of the oxygen-reduction reaction. When all four copper ions are oxidized during catalysis, the native intermediate state (NI) decays in seconds to the resting oxidized state (RO), which returns to the catalytic cycle via reduction, but at a much slower rate than NI. We report the long-lived (months at 4°C) NI state of the small laccase (SLAC) MCO and the subsequent characterization of both its RO and NI states by paramagnetic (1)H NMR. We find that the RO state of the trinuclear cluster (TNC) is best described as an isolated Type-3 dicopper site, antiferromagnetically coupled by a hydroxo group with -2J=500cm(-1). The NI state is more complicated; we develop a theoretical treatment for the case in which all three copper ions in the TNC are coupled, and find that the results are consistent with three coupling constants of -2J=300, 240, and 160cm(-1). These couplings result in a ground doublet state, a low-lying excited doublet state at 121cm(-1), and a quartet excited state at 411cm(-1), in good agreement with DFT models in which the Type-2 copper has a terminal hydroxo ligand.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2016.02.002

    View details for Web of Science ID 000378021000009

    View details for PubMedID 26918900