Designing Artificial Metalloenzymes by Tuning of the Environment beyond the Primary Coordination Sphere

Casey Van Stappen, Yunling Deng, Yiwei Liu, Hirbod Heidari, Jing Xiang Wang, Yu Zhou, Aaron P. Ledray, Yi Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Metalloenzymes catalyze a variety of reactions using a limited number of natural amino acids and metallocofactors. Therefore, the environment beyond the primary coordination sphere must play an important role in both conferring and tuning their phenomenal catalytic properties, enabling active sites with otherwise similar primary coordination environments to perform a diverse array of biological functions. However, since the interactions beyond the primary coordination sphere are numerous and weak, it has been difficult to pinpoint structural features responsible for the tuning of activities of native enzymes. Designing artificial metalloenzymes (ArMs) offers an excellent basis to elucidate the roles of these interactions and to further develop practical biological catalysts. In this review, we highlight how the secondary coordination spheres of ArMs influence metal binding and catalysis, with particular focus on the use of native protein scaffolds as templates for the design of ArMs by either rational design aided by computational modeling, directed evolution, or a combination of both approaches. In describing successes in designing heme, nonheme Fe, and Cu metalloenzymes, heteronuclear metalloenzymes containing heme, and those ArMs containing other metal centers (including those with non-native metal ions and metallocofactors), we have summarized insights gained on how careful controls of the interactions in the secondary coordination sphere, including hydrophobic and hydrogen bonding interactions, allow the generation and tuning of these respective systems to approach, rival, and, in a few cases, exceed those of native enzymes. We have also provided an outlook on the remaining challenges in the field and future directions that will allow for a deeper understanding of the secondary coordination sphere a deeper understanding of the secondary coordintion sphere to be gained, and in turn to guide the design of a broader and more efficient variety of ArMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11974-12045
Number of pages72
JournalChemical reviews
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 27 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry


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