Compounds made from ‘digested’ molecules feeds appetite for greener pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals
New method uses enzymes to produce indolic amides, carboxylic acids and auxins – vital for use in pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries
University of Warwick
Using enzymes in the same way that plants do, the scientists have created bacteria that ‘digest’ molecules to synthesise new compounds in a process that is reusable and produces minimal waste products. Their results are published in a new study in the journal ACS Catalysis and could help the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries in making their manufacturing process more environmentally friendly.
The scientists were particularly interested in reproducing a process in plants called the indole-3-acetamide (IAM) pathway, that allows the plant to produce compounds such as indolic amides, carboxylic acids and auxins. These compounds have a number of agrochemical and pharmaceutical applications but are difficult for industry to manufacture except by using chemical catalysts, which produce a lot of toxic chemical waste.
While scientists have been aware of how nature produces these molecules for decades, until now the technology did not exist that could take advantage of it. Now for the first time, a team based at the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre has developed a process that uses enzymes in a series of cascade reactions to break down molecules and synthesise them into the required compounds, in the same way a plant would.
The study, funded by UK Research and Innovation and the Royal Society, was led by Dr Binuraj Menon at the University of Warwick School of Life Sciences, now based at the University of Portsmouth. He said: “We knew that multiple pathways to Auxin molecules exist in plants. Also, some plant pathogenic bacteria utilize these routes to infect and grow in plant roots and galls. However, reconstructing it in an industrial and friendly microbial host always we have encountered several functional issues.
“By engineering these enzymes, we can adapt the process for the purpose of large-scale production, making it easily accessible, purifiable and compatible. The advantage here is the applicability of these enzymes, as the existing enzymatic solutions to make amide and carboxylic acid are challenging, time consuming and require many expensive components
Enzymes serve a variety of purposes in living organisms and are often best known for forming part of the human digestive system by breaking down food. They are involved in many other functions as biocatalysts, in accelerating chemical reactions. Enzymes are being investigated as alternatives to current chemical methods, cutting industrial emissions and resources, an ideal solution for moving towards greener and environmentally friendly industrial production.
To produce the enzymes for this study, the scientists used non-pathogenic bacteria that were engineered to overexpress them. These enzymes can be separated for reactions in mild and aqueous conditions or the bacteria can be directly used for reactions.
The bacterial cells reproduce quickly and chemicals are produced from cheaper components like glucose, making it easily scaled up and reused with little waste or environmental impact as is often encountered in chemical catalysts. By redesigning microbes and enzymes, they can be engineered to have new abilities and applications.
Dr Menon added: “We are basically harnessing the power of nature to solve many problems in the chemical, pharmaceutical, agriculture and manufacturing industries via engineering microbes and enzymes. Synthetic Biology is essentially using biology for synthetic purposes, and here we have displayed how blending and mixing it with different enzymes can be used with many similar molecules.
“In the near future, additional engineering and lab-based evolution of these enzymes will allow us to prepare bespoke molecules and targeted chemicals. The engineered bacteria could also be used to coat seeds for healthy germination and root development, or as a weed killer by tuning the auxins, with many direct applications and possibilities.”
Other news from the department science
Replicating the structure of bird feathers
The new material could be used in batteries or filtration
Quantum tool opens door to uncharted phenomena
Method can contribute to a better understanding of quantum materials
Recovering instead of shredding: recycling batteries more efficiently
KIT researchers are working with industry to develop a more sustainable recycling process to recycle materials from lithium-ion batteries more effectively
Industry 4.0: No impact on energy consumption?
To what extent does the digitalisation of industrial and manufacturing processes (Industry 4.0) improve energy efficiency and thus reduce energy intensity?
New approach to the sensible utilisation of carbon dioxide from car exhaust gases
"A method has been discovered that uses impure CO2 streams and enables a breakthrough in the synthesis of valuable chemicals and pharmaceuticals"
Boosting PET recycling with higher standards for laboratory experiments
New study shows how enzymatic plastic degradation could be brought one step closer to commercialisation
Innovating Optoelectronic Components with Phosphorus
Significant breakthrough: phosphorus chemists develop new method to selectively introduce phosphorus and nitrogen atoms into polyaromatic systems
Artificial intelligence finds ways to develop new drugs
The chemists tested the process using borylation – a reaction that activates hydrocarbon scaffolds
X-rays reveal how glasses lose their stability
PETRA III experiment shows how atoms in glass behave as weaknesses appear
Understanding the strength development mechanism of chemically treated sandy soil
Researchers provide insights into how the chemical injection process increases soil strength, paving the way to advancement of next-generation construction
Researchers obtain promising results against capacity loss in vanadium batteries
A computational study conducted in Brazil could help extend the working lives of these batteries, which are widely used by utilities and manufacturers
Making better use of residual gases
Award for invention for environmentally friendly adsorption of chlorine
Most read news
Plastic-eating bacteria turn waste into useful starting materials for other products
Microbial Upcycling of Waste PET
Microbes could help reduce the need for chemical fertilizers
A coating protects nitrogen-fixing bacteria: Start-up to commercialise coated bacteria for large-scale use in regenerative agriculture
New designs for solid-state electrolytes may soon revolutionize the battery industry
Scientists achieve monumental improvements in lithium-metal-chloride solid-state electrolytes
Dow and Evonik announce startup of hydrogen peroxide to propylene glycol (HPPG) pilot plant
Innovative technology offer flexibility, lower costs, and a smaller environmental footprint
This is a battery
Two colored liquids bubbling through tubes: Is this what the battery of the future looks like?
Inauguration of the world’s first pilot plant for the cost-efficient production of green methanol
Start-up C1 Green Chemicals AG and research partners develop fundamentally new production process
Converting PFAS “forever chemicals” into valuable compounds
Scientists develop a new method to incorporate harmful perfluoroalkenes into N-heterocyclic carbene ligands
Graphene's proton permeability: A switch for future energy technologies
This discovery could lead to the development of more efficient hydrogen fuel cells and solar water-splitting devices
Lithium-ion batteries are no longer the gold standard in battery tech
On the way to safer and more powerful energy sources
Not so silver lining: Microplastics found in clouds could affect the weather
Low-altitude and denser clouds contained greater amounts of microplastics
CO2-free hydrogen: BASF receives funding approval for 54-megawatt water electrolysis plant
Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer expected to produce up to 8,000 metric tons of hydrogen per year
More news from our other portals
Bowel cancer: aspirin activates protective genes
Researchers have identified a signaling pathway by which aspirin can inhibit colorectal cancer.
Dunning-Kruger effect with muesli bars
Those who know the least consider themselves highly competent
Autonomous measuring instruments systematically detect new materials
A new algorithm measures materials libraries up to four times faster than before: It’s based on machine learning
New drug delivery system could reduce daily diabetes shots to just three a year
Dietary management drugs have transformed Type 2 diabetes care, but daily injection routines are challenging for some patients
Naked Clams: The New Superfood Sensation Emerging from the Depths
Researchers found Naked Clams contain almost twice the amount of Vitamin B12 as blue mussels and have developed an efficient way to farm them
Aston University technology to combat the not-so sweet practice of honey fraud
Light technology to be used to detect if honey is blended with cheap additions
Pushers, overcrowded trains and phone zombies
Sprite presents the world's first vending machine that responds to the things that bother Generation Z the most
Researchers discover new ultra strong material for microchip sensors
A material that doesn't just rival the strength of diamonds and graphene, but boasts a yield strength 10 times greater than Kevlar
How stem cells and immune cells communicate
Lisec Artz Award for Simon Haas: Groundbreaking discovery of an unknown protective mechanism against blood cancer from stem cells
Viral Impostors: Breakthrough for Virus Research
The penetration of viruses into cells can now be tracked with unprecedented accuracy thanks to innovative design for pseudoviruses
From the trough to the plate - digitally calculated
Computer program "ConTrans" estimates how much of an undesirable substance is transferred from animal feed to food
Fatty acid factory filmed at work
High-resolution images provide new insights into cellular fatty acid production: Potential for medicine and biotechnology
Tracking down Environmental Toxins
Detection of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by interrupted energy transfer
The weight of pollution: exposure linked to obesity
Chronic exposure to environmental pollutants found to increase risk of cardiovascular disease
Tönnies Group launches first nationwide "Meat Climate Platform"
100 guests at the Future Forum for Agriculture
Scientists use quantum biology, AI to sharpen genome editing tool
"This study represents an exciting advancement toward, understanding how we can avoid making costly ‘typos’ in an organism’s genetic code"
Textbook knowledge turned on its head: 3-in-1 microorganism discovered
Newly multifunctional bacterial species
Could eating turkey ease colitis?
According to data in mice, extra tryptophan could reduce the risk of future colitis flares