Mechanistic studies of the 'blue' Cu enzyme, bilirubin oxidase, as a highly efficient electrocatalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction

Luciano Dos Santos, Victor Climent, Christopher F. Blanford, Fraser A. Armstrong

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The 'blue copper' enzyme bilirubin oxidase from Myrothecium verrucaria shows significantly enhanced adsorption on a pyrolytic graphite 'edge' (PGE) electrode that has been covalently modified with naphthyl-2-carboxylate functionalities by diazonium coupling. Modified electrodes coated with bilirubin oxidase show electrocatalytic voltammograms for the direct, four-electron reduction of O2 by bilirubin oxidase with up to four times the current density of an unmodified PGE electrode. Electrocatalytic voltammograms measured with a rapidly rotating electrode (to remove effects of O2 diffusion limitation) have a complex shape (an almost linear dependence of current on potential below pH 6) that is similar regardless of how PGE is chemically modified. Importantly, the same waveform is observed if bilirubin oxidase is adsorbed on Au(111) or Pt(111) single-crystal electrodes (at which activity is short-lived). The electrocatalytic behavior of bilirubin oxidase, including its enhanced response on chemically-modified PGE, therefore reflects inherent properties that do not depend on the electrode material. The variation of voltammetric waveshapes and potential-dependent (O2) Michaelis constants with pH and analysis in terms of the dispersion model are consistent with a change in rate-determining step over the pH range 5-8: at pH 5, the high activity is limited by the rate of interfacial redox cycling of the Type 1 copper whereas at pH 8 activity is much lower and a sigmoidal shape is approached, showing that interfacial electron transfer is no longer a limiting factor. The electrocatalytic activity of bilirubin oxidase on Pt(111) appears as a prominent pre-wave to electrocatalysis by Pt surface atoms, thus substantiating in a single, direct experiment that the minimum overpotential required for O2 reduction by the enzyme is substantially smaller than required at Pt. At pH 8, the onset of O2 reduction lies within 0.14 V of the four-electron O2/2H2O potential. © the Owner Societies 2010.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)13962-13974
    Number of pages12
    JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
    Issue number42
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2010


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