X-ray absorption spectroscopy to analyze nuclear geometry and electronic structure of biological metal centers—potential and questions examined with special focus on the tetra-nuclear manganese complex of oxygenic photosynthesis
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X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) has become a prominent tool for the element-specific analysis of transition metals at the catalytic center of metalloenzymes. In the present study the information content of X-ray spectra with respect to the nuclear geometry and, in particular, to the electronic structure of the protein-bound metal ions is explored using the manganese complex of photosystem II (PSIII) as a model system. The EXAFS range carries direct information on the number and distances of ligands as well as on the chemical type of the ligand donor function. For first-sphere ligands and second-sphere metals (in multinuclear complexes), the determination of precise distances is mostly straightforward, whereas the determination of coordination numbers clearly requires more effort. The EXAFS section starts with an exemplifying discussion of a PSII spectrum data set with focus on the coordination number problem. Subsequently, the method of linear dichroism EXAFS spectroscopy is introduced and it is shown how the EXAFS data leads to an atomic resolution model for the tetra-manganese complex of PSII. In the XANES section the following aspects are considered: (1) Alternative approaches are evaluated for determination of the metal-oxidation state by comparison with a series of model compounds. (2) The interpretation of XANES spectra in terms of molecular orbitals (MOs) is approached by comparative multiple-scattering calculations and MO calculations. (3) The underlying reasons for the oxidation-state dependence of the XANES spectra are explored. Furthermore, the potential of modern XANES theory is demonstrated by presenting first simulations of the dichroism in the XANES spectra of the PSII manganese complex.