Investigation of the Unusual Ability of the [FeFe] Hydrogenase from Clostridium beijerinckii to Access an O2-Protected State

Patrick S. Corrigan, Jonathan L. Tirsch, Alexey Silakov

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31 Scopus citations


[FeFe] hydrogenases are enzymes capable of producing and oxidizing H2 at staggering submillisecond time scales. A major limitation in applying these enzymes for industrial hydrogen production is their irreversible inactivation by oxygen. Recently, an [FeFe] hydrogenase from Clostridium beijerinckii (CbHydA1) was reported to regain its catalytic activity after exposure to oxygen. In this report, we have determined that artificially matured CbHydA1 is indeed oxygen tolerant in the absence of reducing agents and sulfides by means of reaching an O2-protected state (Hinact). We were also able to generate the Hinact state anaerobically via both chemical and electrochemical oxidation. We use a combination of spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and density functional theory (DFT) to uncover intrinsic properties of the active center of CbHydA1, leading to its unprecedented oxygen tolerance. We have observed that reversible, low-potential oxidation of the active center leads to the protection against O2-induced degradation. The transition between the active oxidized state (Hox) and the Hinact state appears to proceed without any detectable intermediates. We found that the Hinact state is stable for more than 40 h in air, highlighting the remarkable resilience of CbHydA1 to oxygen. Using a combination of DFT and FTIR, we also provide a hypothesis for the chemical identity of the Hinact state. These results demonstrate that CbHydA1 has remarkable stability in the presence of oxygen, which will drive future efforts to engineer more robust catalysts for biofuel production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12409-12419
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 15 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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