Industrial enzymes from microorganisms
Newly discovered enzymes from nature are essential for the development of novel biocatalysts for industrial processes. Recently, special focus has been on development of enzymes, which are active under extreme conditions like low or high temperatures, low or high pH, in the presence of detergents etc. Such extreme enzymes may be isolated from microorganisms living in extreme environments e.g. in The Arctic and Antarctic, geysers and hot springs, acidic streems and soda lakes.
One of the most interesting, extreme environments on Earth is the ikaite tufa columns in the Ikka Fjord in Greenland. The columns constitute the only known alkaline environment, which is both cold and low-saline. The columns are composed of the rare carbonate mineral ikaite (CaCO3·6H2O). Previous investigations have shown that ikaite tufa columns contain a wide variety of algae and other eukaryotic organisms, and we have shown that the columns also harbor a large diversity of unique microbial species.
Microorganisms in ikaite columns live in an environment with pH 10.4 and a temperature between 2 and 6 °C, and consequently they produce enzymes and biologically active compounds, which are active at such extreme conditions. Enzymes from ikaite microorganisms may be used in industrial processes at low temperatures and thus, more hygieinic, economical and environmental friendly processes may be developed.
We have isolated a number of cold-active enzymes from ikaite columns and other environments in Greenland. The enzymes have primarily been discovered from microorganisms using culturing methods coupled with screening for specific enzyme activities, but recently we have entered the ‘omics age and have identified enzyme genes directly from DNA isolated from the environment. Enzyme genes have been expressed in laboratory production organisms like E. coli, B. subtilis, S. cerevisiae and P. pastoris, and recombinant enzymes have been purified and characterized.
More information here or contact associate professor Peter Stougaard.