Different Binding Modes of Cu and Pb vs. Cd, Ni, and Zn with the Trihydroxamate Siderophore Desferrioxamine B at Seawater Ionic Strength

Kailee Potter, Johan Schijf, Emily Christenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus Citations


The solution speciation in seawater of divalent trace metals (Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn) is dominated by strong, ostensibly metal-specific organic ligands that may play important roles in microbial metal acquisition and/or detoxification processes. We compare the effective stabilities of these metal-organic complexes to the stabilities of their complexes with a model siderophore, desferrioxamine B (DFOB). While metal-DFOB complexation has been studied in various dilute but often moderately coordinating media, for the purpose of this investigation we measured the stability constants in a non-coordinating background electrolyte at seawater ionic strength (0.7 M NaClO4). Potentiometric titrations of single metals (M) were performed in the presence of ligand (L) at different M:L molar ratios, whereupon the stability constants of multiple complexes were simultaneously determined by non-linear regression of the titration curves with FITEQL, using the optimal binding mode for each metal. Cadmium, Ni, and Zn, like trivalent Fe, sequentially form a bi-, tetra-, and hexadentate complex with DFOB as pH increases, consistent with their coordination number of 6 and regular octahedral geometry. Copper has a Jahn-Teller-distorted square-bipyramidal geometry whereas the geometry of Pb is cryptic, involving a range of bond lengths. Supported by a thermodynamic argument, our data suggest that this impedes binding of the third hydroxamate group and that the hexadentate Cu-DFOB and Pb-DFOB complex identified in earlier reports may instead be a deprotonated tetradentate complex. Absence of the hexadentate complex promotes the formation of a dinuclear (bidentate-tetradentate) complex, M2HL2+, albeit not for Pb in 0.7 M NaCl, evidently due to extensive complexation with chloride. Stabilities of the hexadentate Ni-DFOB, Zn-DFOB, and the tetradentate Pb-DFOB complex are nearly equal, yet about 2 orders of magnitude higher and 4 orders of magnitude lower than those of the hexadentate Cd-DFOB and tetradentate Cu-DFOB complex, respectively. Linear free-energy relations defined by the rare earth elements are able to predict stabilities of the Cd, Zn, and one of the Pb complexes, but underestimate those of the Ni and Cu complexes. The comparison with metal-specific organic ligands detected in seawater yields fair agreement for three of the five metals, implying that they could be siderophore-like. The Cd- and Ni-specific ligands are much stronger and may contain quite different functional groups. Calculations with MINEQL incorporating our new stability constants indicate that very high DFOB concentrations would be required to match the extent of metal-organic complexation observed in seawater, however DFOB may well represent a much broader class of structurally related ligands.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)40-51
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Chemistry
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-70105


  • desferrioxamine B
  • divalent metals
  • linear free-energy relation
  • organic ligands
  • potentiometric titration


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