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The development of better biotech enzymes

Date:
March 16, 2011
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions, such as laundry detergent digesting protein stains, which are otherwise very difficult to remove. Scientists have now demonstrated a fundamental principle in changing the activity of enzymes by means of protein engineering.

Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions, such as laundry detergent digesting protein stains, which are otherwise very difficult to remove. A research team led by Professor Kam-bo Wong of the Centre for Protein Science and Crystallography, School of Life Sciences at The Chinese University of Hong Kong demonstrated a fundamental principle in changing the activity of enzymes by means of protein engineering.

The findings provide potential insights into the future design of biotechnologically important enzymes, and will be published in next week's issue of the online, open access journal PLoS Biology.

Proteins from thermophiles, organisms that live in high temperatures, are more resistant to heat denaturation than those from mesophiles, organisms that live in moderate temperatures. In nature, enzymes from microbes that thrive in extremely hot habitats like hydrothermal vents can remain stable even at 100 C. These thermophilic enzymes are useful for the biotech industry because of their superior stability.

One intriguing problem is that thermophilic enzymes are less active than their mesophilic homologs despite having similar structures. "It is like two cars having similar engines but one runs 10 times faster than the other. If thermophilic enzymes can be made more active without compromising their stability, it will be of great commercial value to the biotech industry," explained Professor Wong.

Wong's research team used protein engineering methods to investigate why thermophilic enzymes are less active. They discovered that the thermophilic enzyme acylphosphatase has a unique property in that its active site is rigidified by a salt-bridge. Thermophilic enzymes tend to have more stabilizing interactions like salt-bridges. By removing this salt-bridge, his team converted thermophilic properties of acylphosphatase to mesophilic-like properties. Likewise, a mesophilic acylphosphatase from human was engineered to become thermophilic-like by introducing the salt-bridge. Professor Wong's team concluded that the rigidifying salt-bridge increases the activity of enzymes at high temperatures, but at the same time reduces the activity at low temperatures. The principles learned from Professor Wong's study will hopefully guide the improvement of enzymes in the biotech industry.

Funding: This work was supported by grants from Research Grants Council, Hong Kong (Project no.: 495005, 476307), UGC Special Equipment Grants, Hong Kong (Project no.: SEG/CUHK08), and a strategic investment grant from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lam SY, Yeung RCY, Yu T-H, Sze K-H, Wong K-B. A Rigidifying Salt-Bridge Favors the Activity of Thermophilic Enzyme at High Temperatures at the Expense of Low-Temperature Activity. PLoS Biol, 9(3): e1001027 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001027

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "The development of better biotech enzymes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315192813.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2011, March 16). The development of better biotech enzymes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315192813.htm
Public Library of Science. "The development of better biotech enzymes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315192813.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

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