Photo of a portion of the periodic table showing elements

Department of

Debangsu Sil

Assistant Professor


Bio-Inorganic Chemistry


Debangsu Sil obtained his PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India in 2016. Subsequently, he joined as a post-doc in the group of Prof. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, Texas A&M University, USA, where he studied synthetic mimics of [FeFe]-hydrogenases for questions pertaining to its reaction mechanism. Following this, he joined the group of Prof. J. Martin Bollinger, Jr. and Prof. Carsten Krebs, Penn State University, as a postdoc from 2018 to 2021 and as an Assistant Research Professor from 2021 to 2022. At Penn state, Dr. Sil used advanced spectroscopic methods to study reaction mechanisms of metallo enzymes and Fe/S proteins.


Dr. Debangsu Sil’s group will address problems at the interface of inorganic and biological chemistry. Metalloenzymes catalyze several chemical reactions that are fundamental to life. Particularly, the non-heme diiron enzymes carry out a wide variety of reactions, including hydroxylation and desaturation reactions, N-oxygenation of aminoarenes, and oxidation of tyrosine to tyrosyl radical necessary for DNA biosynthesis, to name a few. These reactions proceed by the activation of molecular oxygen at the diiron(II/II) cofactor leading to formation of several high-valent intermediates which facilitates some of the most difficult reactions. Rigorous understanding of the mechanism of oxygen activation and subsequent reaction steps in these enzymes is indispensable for the development of synthetic catalysts. Dr. Sil’s group will use synthetic chemistry, biochemical, and spectroscopic methods to study oxygen activation by non-heme iron enzymes that catalyze challenging chemical transformations, of which the detailed mechanisms are not well understood.

Selected Publications

Maio, N.; LaFont, B.; Sil, D.; Li, Y.; Bollinger, J. M., Jr.; Krebs, C.; Pierson, T.; Holland, S.; Linehan, M. W.; Rouault, T. A. (2021) Fe-S cofactors in the SARS-CoV-2 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase are potential antiviral targets. Science, 373, 236-241.

Liu, G.; Sil, D.; Tong, W. -H.; Maio, N.; Bollinger, J. M., Jr.; Krebs, C.; Rouault, T. A. (2020) Heme biosynthesis depends on previously unrecognized acquisition of iron-sulfur cofactors in human amino-levulinic acid dehydratase. Nat. Commun., 11, 6310.

McBride, M. J.; Sil, D.; Ng, T. L.; Crooke, A. M.; Kenney, G. E.; Tysoe, C. R.; Zhang, B.; Balskus, E. P.; Boal, A. K.; Krebs, C.; Bollinger, J. M., Jr. (2020) A peroxodiiron(III) intermediate mediating both N-hydroxylation steps in biosynthesis of the N-nitrosourea pharmacophore of streptozotocin by SznF. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 142, 11818-11828.

Dong, H.; Speelman, A. L.; Kozemchak, C. E.; Sil, D.; Krebs, C.; Lehnert, N. (2019) The Fe2(NO)2 Diamond Core: A unique structural motif in non-heme iron-NO chemistry. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 58, 17695-17699.

Sil, D.; Martinez, Z.; Ding, S.; Bhuvanesh, N.; Darensbourg, D. J.; Hall, M. B.; Darensbourg, M. Y. (2018) Cyanide docking and linkage isomerism in models for the artificial [FeFe]-Hydrogenase maturation process. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 140, 9904-9911.

Sil, D.; Dey, S.; Kumar, A.; Bhowmik, S.; Rath, S. P. (2016) Oxidation triggers extensive conjugation and unusual stabilization of two di-heme dication diradical intermediates: role of bridging group for electronic communication. Chem. Sci., 7, 1212-1223.