Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plant Defense as a Biotech Tool

25.11.2015

Against voracious beetles or caterpillars plants protect themselves with cyanide. Certain enzymes release the toxic substance when the plant is chewed. These HNL-called enzymes are also important for industry. acib found a new biocatalyst in a fern which outshines all other HNL-type enzymes on the market.

Defense strategies are not only important in chess or military tactics but also in nature. Especially plants are masters in this discipline. Some stone fruit, almond trees or even ferns defend their young buds against feeding pests with cyanide.


acib-researcher Elisa Lanfranchi searching for fern probes in the woods.

acib

The poison expels the greatest enemy. This is due to an enzyme called hydroxynitrile lyase (HNL), which can release molecularly stored hydrogen cyanide.

What is useful for the plants, is also in demand in industry where the reverse reaction of the HNL-enzymes allows to bind cyanide to different molecules. This creates a double benefit. On the one hand, it is possible to recycle unwanted cyanide wastes, which for example are generated during the production of acrylonitrile.

Acrylonitrile is not only used in adhesives, it is also the raw material for polyacrylonitrile or "acrylic", an important fiber for textiles. On the other hand, industry gains valuable building blocks for pharmaceutical agents or the vitamin synthesis. The extremely high specificity of the HNL-enzymes makes them so useful for industrial application. Ideally, through biocatalysis valuable products are derived from inexpensive precursors.

HNL-enzymes have a fine tradition in industry. The first HNL enzymes have been successfully developed in the mid-1990s at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) and were used industrially for the production of insect repellents.

Important improvements in the synthesis of high-value products aroused more industrial interest. The early enzymes certainly can’t meet all of today’s requirements, so researchers are searching for new HNL biocatalysts. Within the framework of the EU project KYROBIO, which deals with production technologies for new molecules, acib-researchers have successfully looked for those bio-tools.

SMELL ENZYME ACTIVITY

The acib-researchers Margit Winkler, Elisa Lanfranchi and Anton Glieder finally made a find in the white rabbit's foot fern, where the scientists sniffed enzyme activity. "When you rub a young fern leave between the fingers, it smells of hydrocyanic acid and benzaldehyde (similar to marzipan), indicating that there is enzyme activity", explains Margit Winkler, "knowing that ferns show the desired activity, we have been searching in the woods and in commercially available plants".

In three and a half years the acib-researchers in Graz have kept a close eye on eligible enzymes, examined their structure, produced the biocatalysts biotechnologically and tested their activity. Finally, the enzymes of a commercial rabbit’s-foot fern from the hardware store were the most promising. The Styrian bracken fern also showed activity and is currently being studied in more detail.

The new enzyme has an extremely high activity, although it is not even optimized. "Our new HNL is more efficient and simpler to handle than those previously used, because it is a small, uncomplicated enzyme", says Anton Glieder (TU Graz, acib). These results are a perfect basis for the industrial utilization. The range of applications is huge: It includes everything from crop protection to the production of repellents against mosquitoes and Co.

The acib-method used for bioprospecting of enzyme activities was published in the “Current Biotechnology” journal recently: http://goo.gl/6ZAWqt

About acib
The Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) is an international research centre for industrial biotechnology with locations in Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, Tulln, Hamburg and Bielefeld (D), Pavia (I), Barcelona (E) and Rzeszow (P). acib sees itself as a scientific and industrial network of 130+ partners, including 3M, Biomin, Boehringer Ingelheim RCV, DSM, DPx, Lonza, Sandoz or VTU Technology.
At acib, 200+ employees work on more than 70 research projects with the final goal to replace conventional industrial processes and products by more environmentally friendly and more economical approaches.
acib is owned by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Graz University of Technology, the Universities of Innsbruck and Graz and the Styrian Joanneum Research. acib is financed by industrial and public contributions. The latter come from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency of the Republic of Austria (FFG), Standortagentur Tirol, Styrian Business Promotion Agency (SFG), the province of Lower Austria and the Vienna Business Agency.

Further Inquiry:
DI Dr. Margit Winkler, acib, +43 316 873 9333, margit.winkler@acib.at
DI Thomas Stanzer MA, public relations/acib, +43 316 873 9312, thomas.stanzer@acib.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.acib.at
http://goo.gl/6ZAWqt

Thomas Stanzer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Biotechnology activity enzyme enzyme activity enzymes synthesis

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>