Some plants protect themselves with cyanide against voracious beetles, caterpillars or cattle, who want to nibble their delicious looking leaves. Everyone knows that cyanide is really toxic: In Agatha Christies murder stories the murderers take their victim’s breath with ‘sparkling cyanide’: a bit of innocent looking white powder potassium cyanide mixed into sparkling wine. Plants produce this poison with the help of enzymes when the plant is chewed.
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.
What if we had a system mirroring the cross-talk between microbes and complex ‘super-organisms’ like humans or animals? Understanding the relationships between hosts and commensal bacteria might help fighting gut flora associated chronic diseases such as diabetes type II, Morbus Crohn, Colitis Ulcerosa. By that, the necessity for multifaceted medication could be cut and animal trials reduced. Establishing unique microbiome-databases, personal tests are thinkable and the creation of individual ‘avatars’ possible. Furthermore, animal-specific chips could mimic diverse livestock groups. The future not only lies, but also fits in our hand with a microbiome-on-a-chip lab device.
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.
Natural products play a vital role in our everyday life- say in detergents, for the food and beverage production or in medicine. For the discovery of new natural products of bacteria a methodology called functional metagenomics opens up new possibilities.
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?
Products derived from industrial biotechnology often compete with chemical processes. But what are the main aspects for successful applications of industrial biotechnology in manufacturing? Processes should be fast, cost-efficient and – from technological point of view – biocatalysts and enzymes need to deal with harsh process conditions.
In the past years the advent of microbiome research was facilitated by a tremendous decrease in DNA sequencing costs. The progression of sequencing technology and the growing demand for large datasets (beyond the size of the human genome) enabled this favorable progress, which even surpassed Moore’s Law. There are various technologies that benefited from these developments and many of them have a set position in modern laboratories.
Although we live in a world that is more developed than ever, toxins are omnipresent in our environment. During evolution, the human bodies developed ways to cope with many harmful compounds; most of them are degraded enzymatically. A project at the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) revealed new insights into life saving processes – especially into the enzymatic detoxification by a special class of enzymes called flavin containing monooxygenases (FMO).