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Enzyme discovery to benefit homeland security, industry

RICHLAND, Wash. - Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have successfully immobilized enzymes while simultaneously enhancing their activity and stability, opening up new possibilities for using tailored nanoporous materials. The findings, reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (available online Aug. 28), could enable the development of novel sensor and decontamination systems for homeland security, environmental protection and energy generation as well as new industrial chemicals and separations.

"For decades, scientists have been searching for ways to immobilize soluble enzymes with a variety of solid materials. But the results have been disappointing because only small amounts of the immobilized enzymes show any biological activity," said Eric Ackerman, PNNL molecular biologist. "For the first time, we have immobilized an enzyme at high concentrations in a way that actually enhances its stability and activity."

In lab tests, PNNL scientists nearly doubled the activity levels of an enzyme called organophosphorus hydrolase, known for its potential for biosensing and decontaminating poisonous agents.

"By using different highly active and stable immobilized enzymes, we could potentially make enzymatic systems to inactivate certain chemicals or bioweapons, thus serving as a protective barrier in air filtration systems," said Ackerman.

Fabrication of a more stable and active enzyme delivery method could potentially benefit other industries as well. For example, food processing companies use natural enzymes to produce items such as cheese, beer and soft drinks, while the biomedical industry uses them to manufacture drugs. Enzymes, which are proteins found in all organisms from humans to viruses, function as catalysts. Increasing an enzyme's activity - while enhancing enzyme stability - could facilitate more efficient chemical processes.

To achieve enhanced
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Contact: Staci Maloof
staci.maloof@pnl.gov
509-372-6313
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
12-Sep-2002


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