Concepts rather than reactions of chemical and biological catalysis will be combined to design and develop semi-artificial enzymes and hybrid devices with new catalytic properties.
The Generation of semi-artificial enzymes will be approached from both the biological and chemical direction, either by engineering naturally occurring small enzymes or by inserting synthetic cofactors (molecular metal complexes) into a tailored proteinaceous environment.
Hybrid biocatalysts and enzyme systems (i.e., whole living cells) will be studied either immobilized on or encapsulated in smart support materials, e.g., via molecular imprinting. Material design with regard to biocompatibility, conductivity and optical properties will be performed in close collaboration with Unit A and Unit D.
The central goal of this Research Unit is to develop new catalytic systems, assembled from well-understood native enzymes (Unit B). These new systems could be genetically modified to accommodate synthetic cofactors with new functionalities (Unit A). One of the target systems will be photosystem II lacking the water-oxidizing Mn4CaO5 cluster. The corresponding empty binding site will be refilled with alternative divalent metals to assemble multinuclear metal complexes whose catalytic competency will be evaluated.
In a long-term perspective, this may contribute to the establishment of a predictable systemic model for the design of chemzymes – biocatalysts that carry chemically modified catalytic centers and show novel reactivities.