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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
Protein design is a powerful tool for interrogating the basic requirements for the function of a metal site in a way that allows for the selective incorporation of elements that are important for function. Rubredoxins are small electron transfer proteins with a reduction potential centered near 0 mV (vs normal hydrogen electrode). All previous attempts to design a rubredoxin site have focused on incorporating the canonical CXXC motifs in addition to reproducing the peptide fold or using flexible loop regions to define the morphology of the site. We have produced a rubredoxin site in an utterly different fold, a three-helix bundle. The spectra of this construct mimic the ultraviolet–visible, Mössbauer, electron paramagnetic resonance, and magnetic circular dichroism spectra of native rubredoxin. Furthermore, the measured reduction potential suggests that this rubredoxin analogue could function similarly. Thus, we have shown that an α-helical scaffold sustains a rubredoxin site that can cycle with the desired potential between the Fe(II) and Fe(III) states and reproduces the spectroscopic characteristics of this electron transport protein without requiring the classic rubredoxin protein fold.