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Volume 64, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 2056-5135


Generation of artificial metalloenzymes (ArMs) has gained much inspiration from the general understanding of natural metalloenzymes. Over the last decade, a multitude of methods generating transition metal-protein hybrids have been developed and many of these new-to-nature constructs catalyse reactions previously reserved for the realm of synthetic chemistry. This perspective will focus on ArMs incorporating 4d and 5d transition metals. It aims to summarise the significant advances made to date and asks whether there are chemical strategies, used in nature to optimise metal catalysts, that have yet to be fully recognised in the synthetic enzyme world, particularly whether artificial enzymes produced to date fully take advantage of the structural and energetic context provided by the protein. Further, the argument is put forward that, based on precedence, in the majority of naturally evolved metalloenzymes the direct coordination bonding between the metal and the protein scaffold is integral to catalysis. Therefore, the protein can attenuate metal activity by positioning ligand atoms in the form of amino acids, as well as making non-covalent contributions to catalysis, through intermolecular interactions that pre-organise substrates and stabilise transition states. This highlights the often neglected but crucial element of natural systems that is the energetic contribution towards activating metal centres through protein fold energy. Finally, general principles needed for a different approach to the formation of ArMs are set out, utilising direct coordination inspired by the activation of an organometallic cofactor upon protein binding. This methodology, observed in nature, delivers true interdependence between metal and protein. When combined with the ability to efficiently evolve enzymes, new problems in catalysis could be addressed in a faster and more specific manner than with simpler small molecule catalysts.


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