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AmylolEnzymes Captured by Targeted Metagenomics

AmylolEnzymes Captured by Targeted Metagenomics

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Harvesting the natural bounty of Iceland's volcanoes

Scientists are searching the genomes of microbes in Iceland's volcanic regions to find candidate enzymes for industrial use. Surviving harsh conditions and temperatures in the wild could be beneficial in the factory as well.


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Carbohydrates (CHOs) including complex sugars or polysaccharides such as starches are ubiquitous molecules. They are widely used in the food industry but also find numerous applications in areas such as pharmaceuticals, construction and paints. Expanding the repertoire of available enzymes for CHO synthesis, fractionation and modification would have significant impact on the competitiveness of the European carbohydrate industry. In addition, enzymes (biological catalysts) could replace chemical processes with environmentally benign ones. However, current discovery mechanisms are rather slow and inadequate. Scientists are using targeted genomic analysis of environmental samples (metagenomics) to access a wealth of untapped enzymes. In particular, they are analysing the microbes of Iceland's volcanic regions that flourish in a variety of harsh conditions not seen elsewhere in the world. This is being realised through the EU-funded project 'Amylolenzymes captured by targeted metagenomics' AMYLOMICS. The goal is to find more efficient and thermally stable counterparts to conventional enzymes, enabling higher operating temperatures and thus greater solubility of polysaccharides for more complete reactions. Bio-prospecting of DNA isolated from a number of samples in Iceland has resulted in the identification of thousands of novel genes, both complete and partial, related to starch and CHO processing. More than 50 candidate enzymes were selected for further study and biocatalytic optimisation. AMYLOMICS technologies for enzyme discovery will significantly increase the competitiveness of organisations involved in enzyme development. The unique polysaccharide and starch enzymes discovered during the project will have major impact on the European starch industry, already leaders in the global market. Finally, the replacement of traditional chemical pathways with environmentally friendly biocatalytic ones will have important benefits for the environment.

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 265992


Closed project

  • Start date

    1 March 2011

  • End date

    28 February 2014

Funded under:


  • Overall budget:

    € 3 550 541,20

  • EU contribution

    € 2 448 158

Coordinated by:


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