Navigation path

Themes
Agriculture & food
Energy
Environment
ERA-NET
Health & life sciences
Human resources & mobility
Industrial research
Information society
Innovation
International cooperation
Nanotechnology
Pure sciences
Research infrastructures
Research policy
Science & business
Science in society
Security
SMEs
Social sciences and humanities
Space
Special Collections
Transport
Video reports



   Infocentre

Last Update: 02-06-2014  
Related category(ies):
Agriculture & food  |  Health & life sciences  |  Success stories

 

Countries involved in the project described in the article:
Denmark  |  Germany  |  Spain
Add to PDF "basket"

Recruiting enzymes to help the chemical industry

Industry can be hazardous when it mixes corrosive, polluting and potentially explosive chemicals. Sometimes nature offers alternatives to the classic chemical approach, and enzymes, the proteins that speed up chemical reactions, are simple to use and environmentally-friendly.

Image of fungi on moss © lichtreflexe - Fotolia.com

Businesses have been slow to exploit the potential offered by enzymes, however a European research project aimed to increase their use by applying genomic resources to fine-tune their catalytic – or reaction speeding - properties.

The EU-funded project, PEROXICATS, has developed enzymes with diverse properties to substitute harsh chemicals in more sustainable and environmentally-friendly oxidation processes. “The research done by the PEROXICATS team is expected to give the European chemical sector a toolbox of both novel and more robust enzymes of potential use as alternatives in specific industrial applications,” says project coordinator Ángel T. Martínez, from the Spanish Research Council (CSIC).

In recent decades, enzymes have been used in different industrial sectors, like food and drinks, textiles, pulp and paper, leather and personal care. The enzymes studied by PEROXICATS team might find uses in further applications, such as bulk chemicals and medicines.

The research work revolved around the peroxidases, a strong and versatile type of enzymes that use hydrogen peroxide to catalyse a variety of oxidative reactions. Thanks to new genetic engineering tools, enzymes and other proteins can be produced in a large-scale and at low cost by isolating or synthesising the corresponding genes and introducing them into suitable producing hosts like fungi. Fungi and other microorganisms are an easily-tapped source for these enzymes.

Part of the research within the project has been dedicated to find novel fungi from specific habitats, isolating 100 strains of interest that have been screened for the production of peroxidise-type of enzymes.

The researchers manipulated the enzymes through different techniques, including the so-called ‘non-rational’ approach, also known as directed evolution. This mimics the key steps of natural evolution (mutation, recombination and selection) while reducing the time scale from millions of years in nature to a few months of work in the laboratory.

The PEROXICATS research team has also been able to determine the mechanism used by the enzymes to transform a wide range of chemicals in potentially interesting reactions. “These results will become available for pilot or industrial scale evaluation thus strengthening the penetration of biotech solutions in the European chemical sector,” comments Martínez.

“Unlike other harsh reagents currently added to bring about chemical reactions, enzymes act as efficient biocatalysts in nature, are non-hazardous, biodegradable and derived from renewable resources,” says Martínez. “Their industrial use is therefore translated into societal benefits in terms of a decrease in energy consumption or more environmentally-friendly processes and goods, among others,” he concludes.

Project details

  • Project acronym: PEROXICATS
  • Participants: Spain (Coordinator),Germany, Denmark
  • FP7 Proj. N° 265397
  • Total costs: € 4 278 312
  • EU contribution: € 2 999 350
  • Duration: December 2010 - November 2013

Convert article(s) to PDF

No article selected


loading


Search articles

Notes:
To restrict search results to articles in the Information Centre, i.e. this site, use this search box rather than the one at the top of the page.

After searching, you can expand the results to include the whole Research and Innovation web site, or another section of it, or all Europa, afterwards without searching again.

Please note that new content may take a few days to be indexed by the search engine and therefore to appear in the results.

Print Version
Share this article
See also

Project web site

Project information on CORDIS

Contacts
Unit A1 - External & internal communication,
Directorate-General for Research & Innovation,
European Commission
Tel : +32 2 298 45 40
  Top   Research Information Center