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'Enzyme-Search Engine' Reveals Hidden Possibilities of Nature

A new search engine, including a database with more than 100.000 proteins, opens up new possibilities in the search for industrial usable enzymes or for alternatives to patented biocatalysts. The method was published in Nature Communications.

We can discover new possible reaction pathways of enzymes that have not been described yet. For the chemical industry our approach opens up new reaction pathways that were not possible until now.

    GRAZ, AUSTRIA, August 12, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- As high-precision miniature tools from nature, enzymes can solve certain tasks perfectly. The search for new industrial usable enzyme functions is very complex. A project of the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) and the University of Graz opens up a new approach: The "Catalophor System" - a combination of database and search engine - filters desired enzyme functions out of tens of thousands of protein structure data and can even track functionalities that have not been discovered yet.

The procedure is similar to a search engine type search, although the input of data is a bit more complicated. All starts with the question for the required enzyme function. "We focus on the active site of the enzyme and write a program which specifies the positions and distances of the most important amino acids as well as important structural features in the vicinity of the active site", explains acib researcher Christian Gruber.

On the basis of this script the "Catalophor System" browses 100.000+ database entries for similarities. The result is a weighted list of possible candidates. In the next step the most promising candidates are manufactured and tested in the lab. The preliminary work on the computer saves countless experiments and screenings for new enzyme functionality.

The database itself is constantly being expanded. "Every week about 150 new structures are added," says Georg Steinkellner from acib. "We also refine the entire system to answer more complex search queries."

The "Catalophor System" has a high practical benefit for science and industry. "Based on the protein structures we can discover new possible reaction pathways of enzymes that have not been described yet. For the chemical industry our approach opens up new reaction pathways that were not possible until now," says Prof. K. Gruber. The opportunity to replace conventional industrial processes with environmentally friendly and more economic enzymatic methods increases. And it can offer alternatives to patented industrial enzymes.

The method was already applied for a patent and just published in Nature Communications: goo.gl/eK3HAJ

Website: www.acib.at


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