Low-Temperature Trapping of N2 Reduction Reaction Intermediates in Nitrogenase MoFe Protein-CdS Quantum Dot Complexes: Article No. 235102

Lauren Pellows, Gregory Vansuch, Bryant Chica, Zhi-Yong Zhang, Jesse Ruzicka, Mark Willis, Andrew Clinger, Katherine Brown, Lance Seefeldt, John Peters, Gordana Dukovic, David Mulder, Paul King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The biological reduction of N2 to ammonia requires the ATP-dependent, sequential delivery of electrons from the Fe protein to the MoFe protein of nitrogenase. It has been demonstrated that CdS nanocrystals can replace the Fe protein to deliver photoexcited electrons to the MoFe protein. Herein, light-activated electron delivery within the CdS:MoFe protein complex was achieved in the frozen state, revealing that all the electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) active E-state intermediates in the catalytic cycle can be trapped and characterized by EPR spectroscopy. Prior to illumination, the CdS:MoFe protein complex EPR spectrum was composed of a S = 3/2 rhombic signal (g = 4.33, 3.63, and 2.01) consistent with the FeMo-cofactor in the resting state, E0. Illumination for sequential 1-h periods at 233 K under 1 atm of N2 led to a cumulative attenuation of E0 by 75%. This coincided with the appearance of S = 3/2 and S = 1/2 signals assigned to two-electron (E2) and four-electron (E4) reduced states of the FeMo-cofactor, together with additional S = 1/2 signals consistent with the formation of E6 and E8 states. Simulations of EPR spectra allowed quantification of the different E-state populations, along with mapping of these populations onto the Lowe-Thorneley kinetic scheme. The outcome of this work demonstrates that the photochemical delivery of electrons to the MoFe protein can be used to populate all of the EPR active E-state intermediates of the nitrogenase MoFe protein cycle.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages6
JournalThe Journal of Chemical Physics
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-87499


  • ammonia
  • biohybrid
  • catalysis
  • electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • N2 reduction
  • nanocrystal
  • nitrogenase
  • solar energy


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