Aromatic Hydroxylation at a Non-Heme Iron Center: Observed Intermediates and Insights into the Nature of the Active Species

Olga V. Makhlynets, Elena V. Rybak-Akimova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Mechanism of substrate oxidations with hydrogen peroxide in the presence of a highly reactive, biomimetic, iron aminopyridine complex, [Fe II(bpmen)(CH3CN)2][ClO4] 2 (1; bpmen=N,N'-dimethyl-N,N'-bis(2-pyridylmethyl)ethane-1,2- diamine), is elucidated. Complex 1 has been shown to be an excellent catalyst for epoxidation and functional-group-directed aromatic hydroxylation using H2O2, although its mechanism of action remains largely unknown.1, 2 Efficient intermolecular hydroxylation of unfunctionalized benzene and substituted benzenes with H2O2 in the presence of 1 is found in the present work. Detailed mechanistic studies of the formation of iron(III)-phenolate products are reported. We have identified, generated in high yield, and experimentally characterized the key FeIII(OOH) intermediate (Îmax=560 nm, rhombic EPR signal with g=2.21, 2.14, 1.96) formed by 1 and H2O2. Stopped-flow kinetic studies showed that FeIII(OOH) does not directly hydroxylate the aromatic rings, but undergoes rate-limiting self-decomposition producing transient reactive oxidant. The formation of the reactive species is facilitated by acid-assisted cleavage of the O-O bond in the iron-hydroperoxide intermediate. Acid-assisted benzene hydroxylation with 1 and a mechanistic probe, 2-Methyl-1-phenyl-2-propyl hydroperoxide (MPPH), correlates with O-O bond heterolysis. Independently generated FeIV=O species, which may originate from O-O bond homolysis in FeIII(OOH), proved to be inactive toward aromatic substrates. The reactive oxidant derived from 1 exchanges its oxygen atom with water and electrophilically attacks the aromatic ring (giving rise to an inverse H/D kinetic isotope effect of 0.8). These results have revealed a detailed experimental mechanistic picture of the oxidation reactions catalyzed by 1, based on direct characterization of the intermediates and products, and kinetic analysis of the individual reaction steps. Our detailed understanding of the mechanism of this reaction revealed both similarities and differences between synthetic and enzymatic aromatic hydroxylation reactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13995-14006
Number of pages12
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number47
StatePublished - Dec 17 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • hydrogen peroxide
  • hydroxylation
  • iron
  • kinetics
  • oxidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Organic Chemistry


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