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Chemistry. 2000 Oct 2;6(19):3508-16.

Methane formation by reaction of a methyl thioether with a photo-excited nickel thiolate--a process mimicking methanogenesis in archaea.

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Laboratorium für Organische Chemie, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Switzerland.


The formation of a sulfuranyl radical intermediate followed by methyl transfer to the nickel(I) center of coenzyme F430 and generation of the disulfide has been proposed as a possible mechanism for the formation of methane catalyzed by methyl coenzyme M reductase in methanogenic archaea. In order to test this hypothesis, a sterically shielded, bifunctional model substrate that contained a methyl thioether and a sulfhydryl functional group, which could form a five-membered cyclic sulfuranyl radical according to the postulated mechanism, was synthesized. The corresponding thiolate reacted with Ni(II) salts to give a diamagnetic, square-planar Ni(II) dithiolate complex, which was characterized by X-ray diffraction. Upon irradiation of this complex with light of lambda > 300 nm, methane and the cyclic disulfide were formed, whereas irradiation of the thiolate in the absence of nickel gave only traces of methane and no cyclic disulfide. The observed products are consistent with the postulated mechanism via a sulfuranyl radical, and the role of light is interpreted as the formation of a Ni(I)/thiyl radical pair upon excitation of a charge-transfer band of the Ni(II) dithiolate. In the presence of a large excess of thiolate, the diamagnetic complex was transformed into a paramagnetic, five- or six-coordinate complex that proved to be more active in the generation of both methane and the cyclic disulfide, than the square-planar diamagnetic dithiolate.

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