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[NiFeSe]-hydrogenase chemistry.

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Wombwell, Claire 
Caputo, Christine A 


The development of technology for the inexpensive generation of the renewable energy vector H2 through water splitting is of immediate economic, ecological, and humanitarian interest. Recent interest in hydrogenases has been fueled by their exceptionally high catalytic rates for H2 production at a marginal overpotential, which is presently only matched by the nonscalable noble metal platinum. The mechanistic understanding of hydrogenase function guides the design of synthetic catalysts, and selection of a suitable hydrogenase enables direct applications in electro- and photocatalysis. [FeFe]-hydrogenases display excellent H2 evolution activity, but they are irreversibly damaged upon exposure to O2, which currently prevents their use in full water splitting systems. O2-tolerant [NiFe]-hydrogenases are known, but they are typically strongly biased toward H2 oxidation, while H2 production by [NiFe]-hydrogenases is often product (H2) inhibited. [NiFeSe]-hydrogenases are a subclass of [NiFe]-hydrogenases with a selenocysteine residue coordinated to the active site nickel center in place of a cysteine. They exhibit a combination of unique properties that are highly advantageous for applications in water splitting compared with other hydrogenases. They display a high H2 evolution rate with marginal inhibition by H2 and tolerance to O2. [NiFeSe]-hydrogenases are therefore one of the most active molecular H2 evolution catalysts applicable in water splitting. Herein, we summarize our recent progress in exploring the unique chemistry of [NiFeSe]-hydrogenases through biomimetic model chemistry and the chemistry with [NiFeSe]-hydrogenases in semiartificial photosynthetic systems. We gain perspective from the structural, spectroscopic, and electrochemical properties of the [NiFeSe]-hydrogenases and compare them with the chemistry of synthetic models of this hydrogenase active site. Our synthetic models give insight into the effects on the electronic properties and reactivity of the active site upon the introduction of selenium. We have utilized the exceptional properties of the [NiFeSe]-hydrogenase from Desulfomicrobium baculatum in a number of photocatalytic H2 production schemes, which are benchmark systems in terms of single site activity, tolerance toward O2, and in vitro water splitting with biological molecules. Each system comprises a light-harvesting component, which allows for light-driven electron transfer to the hydrogenase in order for it to catalyze H2 production. A system with [NiFeSe]-hydrogenase on a dye-sensitized TiO2 nanoparticle gives an enzyme-semiconductor hybrid for visible light-driven generation of H2 with an enzyme-based turnover frequency of 50 s(-1). A stable and inexpensive polymeric carbon nitride as a photosensitizer in combination with the [NiFeSe]-hydrogenase shows good activity for more than 2 days. Light-driven H2 evolution with the enzyme and an organic dye under high O2 levels demonstrates the excellent robustness and feasibility of water splitting with a hydrogenase-based scheme. This has led, most recently, to the development of a light-driven full water splitting system with a [NiFeSe]-hydrogenase wired to the water oxidation enzyme photosystem II in a photoelectrochemical cell. In contrast to the other systems, this photoelectrochemical system does not rely on a sacrificial electron donor and allowed us to establish the long sought after light-driven water splitting with an isolated hydrogenase.



Biomimetic Materials, Deltaproteobacteria, Desulfovibrio vulgaris, Hydrogenase, Photosynthesis, Selenocysteine

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Acc Chem Res

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American Chemical Society (ACS)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/H00338X/2)
European Commission (624997)
We acknowledge support by the Christian Doppler Research Association (Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy and National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development), the OMV Group, the EPSRC (EP/H00338X/2) and a Marie Curie fellowship to C.C. (GAN 624997).