Phosphorus recycling by mineral-catalyzed ribonucleotide cleavage on iron and manganese oxides

Annaleise R. Klein, Jade J. Basinski, Aurore Niyitanga Manzi, Cynthia X. Cheng, Marcos Sanchez, Wiriya Thongsomboon, Ludmilla Aristilde*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phosphorus is an essential element influencing both food security via plant fertilization, and water pollution through excessive phosphorus use, yet the phosphorus cycle in ecosystems is poorly known. In particular, beyond adsorption, the role of iron and manganese oxides in catalyzing the abiotic dephosphorylation of biomolecules is debated. Here, we studied the reactions of ribonucleotides, containing different phosphate bonding, with goethite, hematite, and birnessite. We employed both high-resolution mass spectrometry of solution species and molecular modeling simulations of ribonucleotide-mineral complexes. Results disclose an up to fivefold preferential hydrolytic cleavage of a phosphoanhydride bond over a phosphoester bond, indicating that mineral-catalyzed reactions reflect the hierarchy reported for the activity of phosphatase enzymes. The fourfold higher catalytic reactivity of goethite and birnessite versus hematite is explained by mineral-specific binding rather than surface area differences. Corresponding simulated adsorbate conformations at the water–mineral interfaces are proposed. Overall, our findings provide new insights on the catalytic recycling of organic phosphorus species by mineral oxides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Adsorption
  • Catalysis
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mineral oxides
  • Organic phosphorus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry


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