Thermostable Isomerase Processes for Biotechnology
Project acronym: TIPs

- Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain
- Nils-Kåre Birkeland, University of Bergen, Norway
- Peter Schönheit, Christian-Albrechts-Universitat Kiel, Germany

The TIPs project focuses on the provision of novel thermostable isomerases from thermophilic microorganisms and metagenomes and their biotechnological applications. Isomers are molecules with identical atomic composition but with different structural characteristics. Different isomers can show very distinctive function. The formation of isomers often reduces the productivity of biotechnological and chemical processes because only one of the two or more isomers is utilized in biocatalytic reactions (reducing the final efficiency to below 50%).

Isomerases are enzymes catalyzing the conversion between different types of isomers. Using the appropriate isomerase enzyme in the industrial process will increase production efficiency resulting in 100% conversion of a racemic substrate to the product. Thermostable isomerases are desired because they possess high resistance and durability, are able to withstand harsh industrial process conditions, including heating and organic solvents. Elevated temperatures can also enhance substrate accessibility and solubility. The proposed project includes comparative bioinformatic analyses of sequence data to identify different classes of thermostable isomerases of industrial interest which will be cloned, over-expressed, functionally and structurally characterized and optimized towards their biotechnological application.
Three types of isomerases will be targeted: sugar isomerases (to produce new desirable sugars for calorie-free sweeteners and as building blocks for drugs), disulfide isomerases (to improve protein folding and stability of industrial enzymes), and chalcone isomerases (involved in the transformation of flavonoids, secondary metabolites of importance as natural colorants, anti-oxidants, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory agents). Durable isomerases will allow new opportunities for green, competitive and sustainable biotechnological processes that can replace conventional chemical synthesis.