Photochemistry and photoinhibition of the H-cluster of FeFe hydrogenases
Hydrogenases are enzymes that catalyze the oxidation and production of molecular hydrogen. For about fifteen years, there have been many reports about the successful connection of these enzymes to photosensitizers with the aim of designing H2 photoproduction systems, but relatively little attention has been paid to whether and why illumination may affect the catalytic properties of the enzyme. In all hydrogenases, hydrogen activation occurs at an inorganic active site that includes at least one Fe–carbonyl motif, which may make it sensitive to irradiation. Here we review the evidence that hydrogenases are indeed photosensitive. We focus mainly on the so-called FeFe hydrogenases; their active site, called the H-cluster, consists of a [4Fe4S] cluster that is bound by a cysteine sulfur to a diiron site. The iron atoms of the binuclear cluster are coordinated by carbonyl and cyanide ligands and an azadithiolate group. We describe the effects of UV-visible light irradiation on the enzyme under cryogenic or turnover conditions and the photoreactivity of model complexes that mimic the diiron site. We emphasize the dependence of the photochemical processes on wavelength, and warn about FeFe hydrogenase photoinhibition, which should probably be considered when attempts are made to use FeFe hydrogenases for the artificial photosynthesis of solar fuels. We also underline the relevance of studies of synthetic mimics of the H-cluster for understanding at atomistic level the photochemical processes observed in the enzyme.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Sustainable Energy and Fuels Recent Review Articles