How Enzymes Are Produced
The first step in producing enzymes is to identify the optimal organism or host. The most common approach is to investigate plants and microorganisms found in nature, where enzymes may already be doing what is desired for an industrial application. There is a rich and broad variety of life on earth, particularly involving microorganisms.
Research is being conducted to identify new, exciting microorganisms that already perform functions that would be valued in industry. Some of this search has centered on extremophiles—microorganisms that thrive in extreme environments. For example, volcanic vents on ocean floors create very high temperature and pressure environments where thermophilic organisms thrive. Likewise, high pH lakes in North Africa are home to many alkaphilic organisms. These organisms already produce enzymes that function in very harsh conditions, and can be used to produce exciting new enzyme varieties.
Newer approaches work with existing microorganisms and apply genetics or molecular biology to incorporate new features to the protein structure so that new, desired enzyme properties can be achieved in the lab. Ultimately, industrial enzymes are produced by fermentation, similar to the production of beer or wine. The organisms are fermented using a suitable nutrient and controlled conditions to produce the enzymes, through both intracellular or extracellular expression. The enzymes are then separated through centrifugation or filtration and stabilized to maintain suitable shelf lives.
Collectively, these approaches have created a large variety of enzymes available for industrial use – and the list grows longer every day. EDT has developed a broad enzyme library of potential raw materials which we use to formulate custom products for prospective customers. This library is expanding rapidly due to the significant work that has been under way for the past few years on cellulosic degradation for the production of ethanol. The results are exceptional versatility in performance and a superior value for our customers.