Thermostable Isomerase Processes for Biotechnology (ERA-IB-16-049)

Conversion of industrial by-products and biomass into value-added products, Novel systems for new or more sustainable processes using bio-catalysts such as enzymes, micro-organism and cell-free biosynthesis systems from natural or synthetic origins. This includes orthogonal biosystems, minimal genome approaches and protocells.

Isomers are molecules with identical atomic composition but with different chemical structures. Two main forms of isomerism exist:structural isomerism and stereoisomerism (spatial isomers). Different isomers can show very distinctive functional characteristics and affect applications such as in nutrition, pharmacy, cosmetics, and biofuels. The enzymes catalyzing the conversion of isomers between different isomeric forms are termed isomerases. Some isomers can interfere with the efficiency of biotechnological processes and others can be substrates for novel biocatalytic transformations.
The objective of this project is to provide efficient thermostable isomerases with high stability, specificity and advanced properties to improve biotechnological processes involving specific isomers.

This project represents a relevant contribution to Industrial Biotechnology within the topics “Conversion of industrial by-products and biomass into value-added products” and “Novel systems for new or more sustainable processed using bio-catalysts such as enzymes”. The project consortium is composed of three research partners from three different countries (Spain, Norway and Germany) with complementary expertise and one collaborating industrial partner involved in advising and pipelining of selected enzymes for industrial use. One subcontractor whose task primarily will be structural biology is also included.

Thermostable isomerases represent durable enzymes able to catalyze the conversion of specific isomers. The methodology will involve genomic and metagenomic sequence data and data-mining, sequence comparison and analysis to identify functional groups and thermophilic isomerases of interest, heterologous gene expression, enzyme characterization, genetic engineering, structural biology, genetic engineering and process optimization.

Three types of isomerases will be targeted in this project: sugar isomerases aimed to produce and transform new desirable sugars for calorie-free sweeteners and as building blocks for new drugs, disulfide isomerases to improve protein folding and stability of industrial enzymes through correction of incorrectly formed disulfide bonds, and chalcone isomerases involved in transformation of flavonoids, secondary metabolites of importance for natural colorants, anti-oxidants, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory agents.

The availability of durable isomerases opens a new generation of possibilities for green, competitive and sustainable biotechnological processes to replace conventional chemical synthesis. The project will focus on the discovery and design of novel biocatalysts, thermostable isomerases, showing high stability, durability and specificity to allow novel biotechnological processes that are currently inefficient or unavailable and will lead to cost effective utilization of biomass for a sustainable industry.