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Catalytic Protein Bundles

Protein Bundles Protein Bundles

Penn MRSEC researchers, DeGrado, Klein, Saven and Wand are studying bundles of helical proteins (Top Figure: Typical 4-helix bundle with selected amino acid side chains E=Asp and H=His, highlighted in green -red and green-blue, respectively) that can bind metal atoms (Bottom Figure: Typical catalytic site with bound Zinc atoms - magenta) and perform the oxidative and reductive catalysis steps essential for the production of hydrogen as a fuel from water.

Biological (natural) proteins perform this chemistry with optimal efficiency, however, they are not sufficiently robust for use in device applications for hydrogen production. Thus, the catalytic centers of such proteins are being incorporated into protein bundles designed (using state-of-the-art computational techniques) to possess the stability required.

Success in combining these designed protein bundles capable of highly efficient oxidative and reductive chemistry with related designed bundles capable of light-induced electric charge separation could provide for cost-effective generation of hydrogen fuel from water, using sunlight as the energy source.