Regioselectivity of aliphatic versus aromatic hydroxylation by a nonheme iron(ii)-superoxo complex

Reza Latifi, Laleh Tahsini, Wonwoo Nam, Sam P. De Visser

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11 Scopus citations


Many enzymes in nature utilize molecular oxygen on an iron center for the catalysis of substrate hydroxylation. In recent years, great progress has been made in understanding the function and properties of iron(iv)-oxo complexes; however, little is known about the reactivity of iron(ii)-superoxo intermediates in substrate activation. It has been proposed recently that iron(ii)-superoxo intermediates take part as hydrogen abstraction species in the catalytic cycles of nonheme iron enzymes. To gain insight into oxygen atom transfer reactions by the nonheme iron(ii)-superoxo species, we performed a density functional theory study on the aliphatic and aromatic hydroxylation reactions using a biomimetic model complex. The calculations show that nonheme iron(ii)-superoxo complexes can be considered as effective oxidants in hydrogen atom abstraction reactions, for which we find a low barrier of 14.7 kcal mol -1 on the sextet spin state surface. On the other hand, electrophilic reactions, such as aromatic hydroxylation, encounter much higher (>20 kcal mol -1) barrier heights and therefore are unlikely to proceed. A thermodynamic analysis puts our barrier heights into a larger context of previous studies using nonheme iron(iv)-oxo oxidants and predicts the activity of enzymatic iron(ii)-superoxo intermediates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2518-2524
Number of pages7
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - 21 Feb 2012


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