Researchers discovered a new family of enzymes that can convert plant waste into high-value products, according to a study published on June 27, 2018.
This study was conducted by the researchers at the University of Portsmouth and this development was made by improving a plastic-digesting enzyme. The newly found family of enzymes were found to be active on the building blocks of lignin. Lignin behaves as a scaffolding in plants and provides strength and defense against pathogens.
A method to release a key bottleneck in the process of breaking down lignin to its basic chemicals was found by the researchers. Environmental benefits such as reduction in CO2 emissions and less dependence on oil usage are offered by products that are made from lignin. The enzyme is a new class of cytochrome P450, which is capable of working on a wide range of molecules.
Dr. Gregg Beckham at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), said, “This new cytochrome P450 enzyme can degrade a lot of different lignin-based substrates. That’s good because it means it can then be engineered to be a specialist for a specific molecule and we can evolve it further to push it in a certain direction.”
It can be considered as one of the most well-known, versatile, engineerable, and evolvable classes of enzymes, which will be an asset in the field of biotechnology. Moreover, researchers are further working together to identify and develop even faster enzymes that can turn lignin into high-value sustainable products.