Covalent attachment of FeFe hydrogenases to carbon electrodes for direct electron transfer

Baffert C, Sybirna K, Ezanno P, Lautier T, Hajj V, Meynial-Salles I, Soucaille P, Bottin H, Léger C.

Direct electron transfer between enzymes and electrodes is now commonly achieved, but obtaining protein films that are very stable may be challenging. This is particularly crucial in the case of hydrogenases, the enzymes that catalyze the biological conversion between dihydrogen and protons, because the instability of the hydrogenase films may prevent the use of these enzymes as electrocatalysts of H2 oxidation and production in biofuel cells and photoelectrochemical cells. Here we show that two different FeFe hydrogenases (from Chamydomonas reinhardtii and Clostridium acetobutylicum) can be covalently attached to functionalized pyrolytic graphite electrodes using peptidic coupling. In both cases, a surface patch of lysine residues makes it possible to favor an orientation that is efficient for fast, direct electron transfer. High hydrogen-oxidation current densities are maintained for up to one week, the only limitation being the intrinsic stability of the enzyme. We also show that covalent attachment has no effect on the catalytic properties of the enzyme, which means that this strategy can also used be for electrochemical studies of the catalytic mechanism.

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