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J Am Chem Soc. 2011 Nov 30;133(47):19040-3. doi: 10.1021/ja2082262. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Energetics of direct and water-mediated proton-coupled electron transfer.

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Laboratory of Chemical Physics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Building 5, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0520, USA.


Proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) is an elementary chemical reaction crucial for biological oxidoreduction. We perform quantum chemical calculations to study the direct and water-mediated PCET between two stacked tyrosines, TyrO(•) + TyrOH → TyrOH + TyrO(•), to mimic a key step in the catalytic reaction of class Ia ribonucleotide reductase (RNR). The energy surfaces of electronic ground and excited states are separated by a large gap of ~20 kcal mol(-1), indicative of an electronically adiabatic transfer mechanism. In response to chemical substitutions of the proton donor, the energy of the transition state for direct PCET shifts by exactly half of the change in energetic driving force, resulting in a linear free energy relation with a Brønsted slope of ½. In contrast, for water-mediated PCET, we observe integer Brønsted slopes of 1 and 0 for proton acceptor and donor modifications, respectively. Our calculations suggest that the π-stacking of the tyrosine dimer in RNR results in strong electronic coupling and adiabatic PCET. Water participation in the PCET can be identified perturbatively in a Brønsted analysis.

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