Designer enzymes could make the 'unnatural' the natural choice for greener chemistry
Enzymes are nature's catalysts, speeding up the rate of a reaction without being consumed by it, and thus they can be used again and again. Most enzymes are proteins, sequences of amino acids that form functional (or 'meaningful') compounds, in the same way that a sequence of letters forms words and sentences. Small sequences of amino acids in the enzyme form the binding and catalytic sites, essentially holding the reactant(s) captive so that the reaction can be catalysed. The EU-funded DENZUAC project is out to introduce 'unnatural' amino acids into naturally occurring proteins to unlock a wealth of catalytic reactions currently inaccessible with natural 'green' chemistry. The designer enzymes could help make biocatalysis significantly more attractive as a route to sustainable chemical reactions for a variety of applications of importance to society in fields ranging from energy and medicine to nanotechnology.
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