Taming the Dichalcogenides: Isolation, Characterization, and Reactivity of Elusive Perselenide, Persulfide, Thioselenide, and Selenosulfide Anions

06 April 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Reactive sulfur species (RSS) and reactive selenium species (RSeS) play integral roles in hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and hydrogen selenide (H2Se) biological signaling pathways, and dichalcogenide anions are proposed transient intermediates that facilitate a variety of biochemical transformations. Herein we report the selective synthesis, isolation, spectroscopic and structural characterization, and fundamental reactivity of persulfide (RSS–), perselenide (RSeSe–), thioselenide (RSSe–), and selenosulfide (RSeS–) anions. The isolated chalcogenides do not rely on steric protection for stability and have steric profiles analogous to cysteine (Cys). Simple reduction of S8 or Se by potassium benzyl thiolate (KSBn) or selenolate (KSeBn) in the presence of 18-crown-6 afforded [K(18-crown-6)][BnSS] (1), [K(18-crown-6)][BnSeSe] (2) [K(18-crown-6][BnSSe] (3), and [K(18-crown-6][BnSeS] (4). The chemical structure of each dichalcogenide was confirmed by X-ray crystallography and solution state 1H, 13C, and 77Se NMR spectroscopy. To advance our understanding of the reactivity of these species, we demonstrated that reduction of 1-4 by PPh3 readily generates E=PPh3 (E: S, Se), and reduction of 1, 3, and 4 by DTT readily produces HE–/H2E. Furthermore, 1-4 reacts with CN– to produce ECN–, which is consistent with the detoxifying effects of dichalcogenide intermediates in the Rhodanese enzyme. Taken together, this work provides new insights into the inherent structural and reactivity characteristics of dichalcogenides relevant to biology and advances our understanding of the fundamental properties of these reactive anions.


reactive sulfur species
reactive selenium species


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.