A De Novo‐Designed Artificial Metallopeptide Hydrogenase: Insights into Photochemical Processes and the Role of Protonated Cys
Hydrogenase enzymes produce H2 gas, which can be a potential source of alternative energy. Inspired by the [NiFe] hydrogenases, we report the construction of a de novo-designed artificial hydrogenase (ArH). The ArH is a dimeric coiled coil where two cysteine (Cys) residues are introduced at tandem a/d positions of a heptad to create a tetrathiolato Ni binding site. Spectroscopic studies show that Ni binding significantly stabilizes the peptide producing electronic transitions characteristic of Ni-thiolate proteins. The ArH produces H2 photocatalytically, demonstrating a bell-shaped pH-dependence on activity. Fluorescence lifetimes and transient absorption spectroscopic studies are undertaken to elucidate the nature of pH-dependence, and to monitor the reaction kinetics of the photochemical processes. pH titrations are employed to determine the role of protonated Cys on reactivity. Through combining these results, a fine balance is found between solution acidity and the electron transfer steps. This balance is critical to maximize the production of NiI-peptide and protonation of the NiII−H− intermediate (Ni−R) by a Cys (pKa≈6.4) to produce H2.