• ab initio calculations;
  • density functional calculations;
  • electronic structure;
  • enzymes;
  • O[BOND]O activation


α-Ketoglutarate (αKG)-dependent nonheme iron enzymes utilize a high-spin (HS) ferrous center to couple the activation of oxygen to the decarboxylation of the cosubstrate αKG to yield succinate and CO2, and to generate a high-valent ferryl species that then acts as an oxidant to functionalize the target C[BOND]H bond. Herein a detailed analysis of the electronic-structure changes that occur in the oxygen activation by this enzyme was performed. The rate-limiting step, which is identical on the septet and quintet surfaces, is the nucleophilic attack of the distal O atom of the O2 adduct on the carbonyl group in αKG through a bicyclic transition state (5, 7TS1). Due to the different electronic structures in 5, 7TS1, the decay of 7TS1 leads to a ferric oxyl species, which undergoes a rapid intersystem crossing to form the ferryl intermediate. By contrast, a HS ferrous center ligated by a peroxosuccinate is obtained on the quintet surface following 5TS1. Thus, additional two single-electron transfer steps are required to afford the same FeIV–oxo species. However, the triplet reaction channel is catalytically irrelevant. The biological role of αKG played in the oxygen-activation reaction is dual. The αKG LUMO (C[DOUBLE BOND]O π*) serves as an electron acceptor for the nucleophilic attack of the superoxide monoanion. On the other hand, the αKG HOMO (C1[BOND]C2 σ) provides the second and third electrons for the further reduction of the superoxide. In addition to density functional theory, high-level ab initio calculations have been used to calculate the accurate energies of the critical points on the alternative potential-energy surfaces. Overall, the results delivered by the ab initio calculations are largely parallel to those obtained with the B3LYP density functional, thus lending credence to our conclusions.