The identification of novel enzyme catalysts, especially for yet biocatalytically underexplored reactions, is a major research focus in our group. Using enzyme-specific motifs and specific bioinformatics tools, we are mining the wealth of sequence data available in public databases for the discovery of interesting novel biocatalysts with valuable properties.
The major advantage of enzymes compared to chemical catalysts is their intrinsic high selectivity. We are exploring the regio- and stereoselectivity of various oxygenases and lyases for the selective synthesis of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals. This not only involves the application of free enzymes but also the generation of suitable whole-cell biocatalysts as well as the combination of different enzyme activities in biocascades.
Many naturally occurring enzymes do not exhibit all characteristics required for their application in industrial processes. Hence, protein engineering is often the method of choice to adjust specific enzyme properties. In our projects, we apply different protein engineering techniques to modify the activity, selectivity or stability of our biocatalysts. This also includes the development of reaction-specific enzyme activity assays.
The establishment of biorefinery concepts for the valorization of lignocellulosic biomass will be the key to reach sustainability targets in the future. In this area, biomass-degrading enzymes are attracting significant research interest for their potential in the production of chemicals and biofuels from renewable feedstock. Specifically, our group investigates the valorization of lignin by selective biocatalytic depolymerisation of this aromatic polymer.