Notice: This is an archived and unmaintained page. For current information, please browse

2011 Annual Science Report

Montana State University Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

BioInspired Mimetic Cluster Synthesis: Bridging the Structure and Reactivity of Biotic and Abiotic Iron-Sulfur Motifs

Project Summary

Bioinspired synthetic approaches are being utilized to bridge the gap between Fe-S minerals and highly evolved biological Fe-S metalloenzymes. Biology builds complex Fe-S clusters by first synthesizing standard Fe-S clusters and then modifying them through radical chemistry catalyzed by radical SAM enzymes. In an effort to examine hypothetical early biocatalysts, we probing simple Fe-S motifs capable of coordinating Fe-S clusters in aqueous solutions that can initiate radical chemistry.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

The interface between mineral surfaces and early biological molecules may have played a key role in early life. Using a “top-down” approach to probing this interface, we have utilized knowledge gained from complex Fe-S cluster assembly to design an experimental pathway to examine putative early Fe-S based prebiotic catalysts. Complex Fe-S cluster assembly pathways are clearly built in a step wise fashion and involve radical chemistry (catalyzed by radical SAM enzymes) to impart unique catalytic functionality to standard Fe-S based systems. Radical SAM enzymes are found in all kingdoms of life and have been proposed to be evolutionarily ancient given their roles in central pathways including glucose and lysine metabolism, ribonucleotide reduction, DNA repair, tRNA modification and cofactor biosynthesis. Given the fundamental biochemical processes associated with radical SAM enzymes, radical SAM chemistry may have been one of the earliest functions associated with protein-based biocatalysts.

The core functionality associated with radical SAM enzymes is attributed to the presence of a site-differentiated [4Fe-4S]2+/+ cluster that coordinates SAM; this ligand binding is the key determinate to the radical mediated homolytic S+–C5’ bond cleavage of SAM and the generation of the highly reactive 5’-deoxyadenosyl radical responsible for H-atom abstraction from the multitude of substrates that this enzyme superfamily acts on. The strict conservation of the CX3CX2C motif that harbors the site-differentiated [4Fe-4S]2+/+ cluster, coupled to the concept of the functional diversification from a primordial (α/β)2 TIM barrel progenitor, has given rise for the need to biochemically define polypeptides that bind redox active, site-differentiated [4Fe-4S]2+/+ clusters. Along these lines, we have begun to explore the ability of 8-mer CX3CX2C based peptides to incorporate functional [4Fe-4S]2+/+ clusters in aqueous solution and to interact with and cleave SAM. The event of a simple peptide complex capable of carrying out radical based chemistry in aqueous solution would mark a significant occasion in the growing complexity associated with an emerging biotic world.

    Eric Shepard
    Project Investigator
    Robert Szilagyi
    Project Investigator

    Joan Broderick

    John Peters

    Guana Siluvai Pitchai

    Michael Vance

    Logan Giles
    Doctoral Student

    Travis Harris
    Doctoral Student

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts

    Objective 3.2
    Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules

    Objective 3.3
    Origins of energy transduction

    Objective 3.4
    Origins of cellularity and protobiological systems

    Objective 7.1
    Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials

    Objective 7.2
    Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems