Hydrogen Evolution in [NiFe] Hydrogenases: A Case of Heterolytic Approach between Proton and Hydride

Siyao Qiu, Luis Miguel Azofra, Douglas R Macfarlane, Chenghua Sun

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6 Scopus citations


The mechanism for Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER) in [NiFe] hydrogenase enzymes distinguishes them from inorganic catalysts. The first H+/e- pair injected to the active site of the hydrogenases transforms into hydride, while the second H+/e- pair injection leads to the formation of the H-/H+ pair both binding to the active site. The two opposite charged hydrogens heterolytically approach each other in order to form dihydrogen (H2), which is enhanced by the Coulomb force. Two previously proposed reaction routes for this process have been examined by Conceptual Density Functional Theory (DFT) in this work. One presents better agreement with experimental spectra, while the other is thermodynamically more favorable. Both paths suggest that the approach and the charge transfer between the proton and hydride are motivated by the stabilization of the electronic activity and the electrophilicity of Ni. After the heterolytic approach of the proton and hydride moieties, the two hydrogen atoms attach to the Ni ion and combine homolytically.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2979-2986
Number of pages8
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 12 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The authors acknowledge the financial support from Australian Research Council (ARC), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and High-level Talents Project of Dongguan University of Technology (Grant Number KCYKYQD2017017), and Guangdong Innovation Research Team for Higher Education (2017KCXTD030). Gratitude is also due to the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), which is supported by the Australian Government, and the KAUST Supercomputing Laboratory, using the supercomputer Shaheen II, for providing the computational resources.


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