It is grey, waxy, smelly and very expensive: Ambra, the worlds rarest organic substance, could only be found in the digestive tract of sperm whales. The compound is highly sought after by the perfume industry due to its fragrance fixative properties and distinctive aroma. Biotechnologists found a new biosynthetic pathway to produce the precursor of Ambra, names Ambrein, exactly as it occurs in nature. The findings could revolutionize the perfume industry by making different products eco-friendly.
Enzymes are playing the first violin, the cell is hosting a perfectly coordinated orchestra and reserachers are the composers? Instead of sounds they produce fragrances? Our musical thought experiment demonstrates the complex production processes of biotechnology with aromatics as an example.
Scientists from the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) Vienna and the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) discovered a gene switch in yeast, that was able to change twelve genes – and thereby the metabolic process of yeast as a whole. This work explains evolutionary events that happened more than 120 million years ago. The results have recently been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications and have the potential to be used in the food and feed industry and for the production of bio fuels and new building blocks for bioplastics.
Sugar is not only a widely used food ingredient but can also be used as possible starting point for high-added-value products. The European research consortium of CARBAFIN explores different ways to make use of sugar beet biomass: the sugar components glucose and fructose are starting points for the production of important ingredients for not only food/feed but also cosmetics. Besides, fructose can be further converted to a platform chemical, which is applied to the production of bioplastics, biofuels or biopolymers, as well as resins. In other words, CARBAFIN people sweeten our lives!
Microorganisms play a crucial role for the health and well-being of higher organisms. Host-specific microbial communities of varying complexity form the so-called microbiota. It can consist of several thousand microbial species and includes bacteria, archaea and fungi. These microorganisms exchange a plethora of metabolites with their hosts and can modulate their functioning. Such interactions equally affect humans, animals and plants. This provides us with novel strategies to counteract various diseases and increase the resistance of higher organisms towards abiotic and biotic stresses by modulating the microbiota.
Enzymes are the tiny helpers of industrial biotechnology. Despite their microscopic size, they need to be tough and diligent because we want them to catalyze a broad range of reactions, ideally with the speed of light for ever after. In reality, however, many enzymes are like sensitive creatures, who need most careful attention and special treats to get their nicest behavior. Otherwise they might fade away like a tender flower in the blinking sun… and send the biotechnologists into terrible trouble. One strategy to find frugal enzymes is to look at thermophilic organisms. They sometimes harbor a treasure of more stable proteins because they are used to withstand somewhat unfriendly conditions such as high temperatures.
Fungi are ubiquitous organisms which have made a beneficial contribution to human development. This association dates back to 3000 B.C. when it is believed that for the first time, Egyptians used yeast for baking bread and brewing beer. Later with the discovery of penicillin from Penicillium chrysogenum, fungal antibiotics gained widespread use in treatment of infections. In the research field too, fungi serve as a model for genetics and cell biology. Filamentous fungi are known for secreting huge amounts of secondary metabolites like enzymes, organic acids, cyclosporins, and steroids. These valuable compounds have vast applications in several industries such as food, beverages, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. A well-known filamentous fungi is Aspergillus niger, an industrial workhorse for production of high titers of organic acids and enzymes.
The mankind flies to the moon, explores the universe – but still on earth there is much more unexplored matter than we are aware of. Bioprospecting is a discipline, where new products and processes are discovered based on natural resources. The big ideas and innovations for industrial processes are right in front of us – we just have to observe nature and – which is the difficulty – recognize them.
Follow up with the second article of “Connection carbon”. Missed to read the first part? Here you go!
Among numerous carbon-carbon coupling reactions in organic synthesis, the Friedel-Crafts acylation enables the direct connection of aromatic compounds with carbonyl moieties. It is therefore one of the most popular chemical transformations and extensively used. The resulting products- aromatic ketones- are valuable building blocks and relevant to a range of industrial sectors, including the pharmaceutical, biotechnological and fine chemical industry. ACIB pioneers in developing a biocatalytic equivalent for this fundamental reaction, thereby exploiting a so-far little investigated cofactor-independent acyltransferase. But why considering enzymes to do this reaction?