Research ArticleChemistry

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide as a photocatalyst

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Science Advances  19 Jul 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 7, eaax0501
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0501


Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a key redox compound in all living cells responsible for energy transduction, genomic integrity, life-span extension, and neuromodulation. Here, we report a new function of NAD+ as a molecular photocatalyst in addition to the biological roles. Our spectroscopic and electrochemical analyses reveal light absorption and electronic properties of two π-conjugated systems of NAD+. Furthermore, NAD+ exhibits a robust photostability under UV-Vis-NIR irradiation. We demonstrate photocatalytic redox reactions driven by NAD+, such as O2 reduction, H2O oxidation, and the formation of metallic nanoparticles. Beyond the traditional role of NAD+ as a cofactor in redox biocatalysis, NAD+ executes direct photoactivation of oxidoreductases through the reduction of enzyme prosthetic groups. Consequently, the synergetic integration of biocatalysis and photocatalysis using NAD+ enables solar-to-chemical conversion with the highest-ever-recorded turnover frequency and total turnover number of 1263.4 hour−1 and 1692.3, respectively, for light-driven biocatalytic trans-hydrogenation.

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