Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Selenol binds to iron in nitrogenase iron-molybdenum cofactor: an extended x-ray absorption fine structure study.

PMID 8108404


The biological N2-fixation reaction is catalyzed by the enzyme nitrogenase. The metal cluster active site of this enzyme, the iron-molybdenum cofactor (FeMoco), can be studied either while bound within the MoFe protein component of nitrogenase or after it has been extracted into N-methylformamide. The two species are similar but not identical. For example, the addition of thiophenol or selenophenol to isolated FeMoco causes its rather broad S = 3/2 electron paramagnetic resonance signal to sharpen and more closely approach the signal exhibited by protein-bound FeMoco. The nature of this thiol/selenol binding site has been investigated by using Se-K edge extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) to study selenophenol ligated to FeMoco, and the results are reported here. EXAFS data analysis at the ligand Se-K edge was performed with a set of software, GNXAS, that provides for direct calculation of the theoretical EXAFS signals and least-squares fits to the experimental data. Data analysis results show definitively that the selenol (and by inference thiol) binds to Fe at a distance of 2.4 A. In contrast, unacceptable fits are obtained with either Mo or S as the liganded atom (instead of Fe). These results provide quantitative details about an exchangeable thiol/selenol binding site on FeMoco in its isolated, solution state and establish an Fe atom as the site of this reaction. Furthermore, the utility of ligand-based EXAFS as a probe of coordination in polynuclear metal clusters is demonstrated.

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Benzeneselenol, 97%