Microbial proteases and their industrial applications

Microbial proteases and their industrial applications

Proteases are enzymes characterised by their ability to hydrolyse peptide bonds. These proteins are ubiquitous among eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms and consequently possess a great degree of variation in structure, action and function within an organism.  There are many different characterisations of proteases. Proteases are classified by the constituents of their active site, which also dictates the proteolytic mechanism used to sever peptide bonds. Proteases are also characterised by the locus at which the enzyme attacks the substrate, endoproteases are able to break peptide bonds found internally within the polypeptide whereas exo-proteases hydrolyse bonds found at either the N or C terminal. They have been found to play essential roles in digestion, hormone and protein maturation, haemostasis, immunity, sporulation, virulence, and differentiation. Two thirds of all industrial enzymes produced are proteases.

Due to their ability to secrete enzymes readily and their ease of growth, microbes provide the main source of proteases. A great majority of these enzymes are used in detergents, however proteases can be found in many different industrial processes. Proteases used in detergents all originated from Bascillus subtilis. Optimisation of these subtilin proteases have resulted in greater heat and pH stability and a more generic action, because of this they are often used for a model of protein engineering. Many of the subtilin detergent proteases have been designed by random and site directed mutagenesis. Another area of development is the identification of new wild strains that produce alkaline proteases particularly within pyschrophiles, whereby natural selection will have decreased the optimal temperature of the enzymes to work at lower temperatures. The benefit of detergents containing these proteases is that lower wash temperatures can be used, reducing any negative economical and environmental impacts.

The textile industry also relies upon the action of microbial processes. Within the leather, silk and wool industries the uses of microbial proteases are found in key stages of manufacture. They are also heavily involved within the meat, soy, baking and cheese industry. Applications of proteases can be found throughout various fields and industries, including waste management, pharmaceuticals and research.

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