Molecular mechanisms of electron transfer employed by native proteins and biological-inorganic hybrid systems

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Recent advances in enzymatic electrosynthesis of desired chemicals in biological-inorganic hybrid systems has generated interest because it can use renewable energy inputs and employs highly specific catalysts that are active at ambient conditions. However, the development of such innovative processes is currently limited by a deficient understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in electrodebased electron transfer and biocatalysis. Mechanistic studies of non-electrosynthetic electron transferring proteins have provided a fundamental understanding of the processes that take place during enzymatic electrosynthesis. Thus, they may help explain how redox proteins stringently control the reduction
potential of the transferred electron and efficiently transfer it to a specific electron acceptor. The redox sites at which electron donor oxidation and electron acceptor reduction take place are typically located in distant regions of the redox protein complex and are electrically connected by an array of closely spaced cofactors. These groups function as electron relay centers and are shielded from the surrounding environment by the electrically insulating apoporotein. In this matrix, electrons travel via electron tunneling, i.e. hopping between neighboring cofactors, over impressive distances of upto several nanometers and, as in the case of the Shewanella oneidensis Mtr electron conduit, traverse the bacterial cell wall to extracellular electron acceptors such as solid ferrihydrite. Here, the biochemical strategies of proteinbased electron transfer are presented in order to provide a basis for future studies on the basis of which a more comprehensive understanding of the structural biology of enzymatic electrosynthesis may be
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-213
Number of pages8
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
Early online date14 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Enzymatic electrosynthesis
  • Protein engineering
  • Electron transfer
  • Electron bifurcation
  • Redox potential
  • Redox protein


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