Carnegie Mellon University Department of Chemistry

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Hendrich paper in August 2000 issue of Science

The interaction of oxygen with iron in proteins and enzymes is of fundamental importance to all air breathing organisms including humans. The chemical energy difference between foods and oxygen is the driving force for many biochemical processes in which iron enzymes perform critical chemical transformations. The chemical steps during the reaction of oxygen with an iron enzyme are not well understood. We have discovered a new complex of iron and oxygen which will allow a better understanding of these steps. The complex shows a single atom of oxygen bound to a state of iron not previously observed. The oxygen atom is derived from the splitting of molecule oxygen, O2. Further work will be aimed at advancing the complex to other steps in the oxygen activation process to determine what is chemically possible and its similarities to biological systems.