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Scientific reports

Lyophilization protects [FeFe]-hydrogenases against O2-induced H-cluster degradation.


PMID 26364994

Abstract

Nature has developed an impressive repertoire of metal-based enzymes that perform complex chemical reactions under moderate conditions. Catalysts that produce molecular hydrogen (H2) are particularly promising for renewable energy applications. Unfortunately, natural and chemical H2-catalysts are often irreversibly degraded by molecular oxygen (O2). Here we present a straightforward procedure based on freeze-drying (lyophilization), that turns [FeFe]-hydrogenases, which are excellent H2-producers, but typically extremely O2-sensitive in solution, into enzymes that are fully resistant against O2. Complete dryness protects and conserves both, the [FeFe]-hydrogenase proteins and their inorganic active-site cofactor (H-cluster), when exposed to 100% O2 for days. The full H2-formation capacity is restored after solvation of the lyophilized enzymes. However, even minimal moisturizing re-establishes O2-sensitivity. The dry [FeFe]-hydrogenase material is superior also for advanced spectroscopic investigations on the H-cluster reaction mechanism. Our method provides a convenient way for long-term storage and impacts on potential biotechnological hydrogen production applications of hydrogenase enzymes.

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