About this Research Topic
The development of sustainable material production processes has been widely acknowledged as a key challenge for the 21st century. Catalytic methods may allow a considerable reduction in chemical cost and an improved environmental profile due to their high selectivity. Key success factors are the impressive developments in enzyme discovery and protein engineering, which offer new approaches on how enzymes are searched for, optimized and applied. Database searches and modern screening approaches increase the number of newly discovered enzymes and even enzyme classes exponentially.
However, despite a tremendous progress in molecular biology, gene synthesis and computational methods, the prediction of catalytic properties from sequence information is still challenging. Moreover, the optimization of the enzymes for concrete industrial applications is often a serious bottleneck. Protein engineering and directed evolution still require too much time and effort, which often makes other, less sustainable methods the preferred option for a given problem. In many cases it is not clear which strategy is the best to create improved tailor-made enzyme variants. Reaction engineering is a rapid and robust approach to increase enzyme stability and to control the parameters of a reaction. Unfortunately, regarding the modification of intrinsic catalytic properties such as enzyme selectivity or substrate spectrum, reaction engineering is a very limited approach. Consequently, reaction engineering and enzyme engineering have the potential to complement each other. However, this raises the question how to proceed with such a complementary approach at different stages of research.
The research topic addresses strategies for the discovery and optimization of microbial biocatalysts for industrial applications. It includes targeted enzyme discovery and methods for the modification of catalytic properties by enzyme engineering and reaction engineering. The research topic covers different aspects and aims to create a productive interdisciplinary discussion between microbiologists, biotechnologists and chemists to identify successful strategies for the rapid and successful optimization of biocatalysts.