NYU-Poly Breakthrough Stabilizes Important Proteins

Applications Include Therapeutic Proteins for Diagnosis of Illnesses and Enzymes to Produce Bio-Ethanol and Low-Calorie Sweeteners

The new process could allow the plant sugar inulin found in dandelions to ferment for bio-fuel.

Scientists at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University report they have developed a novel method of stabilizing proteins, including important enzymes used to produce certain artificial sweeteners and bio-ethanol. The research will also be useful for extending the lifetime of therapeutic proteins employed to diagnose illnesses.

The NYU-Poly scientists inserted the unstable exoinulinase (EI) protein into a thermophilic scaffold protein, which is known for its stability and a propensity to protect less stable proteins. The method developed by the NYU-Poly scientists stabilizes EI without compromising its enzymatic ability; in other words, its ability to act as a catalyst to enhance certain chemical reactions. In the past, EI proteins lost their enzymatic activity too rapidly to be useful in turning the abundant plant sugar inulin into ultra-high fructose syrup or bio-ethanol.

The method can potentially be applied to a wide range of unstable proteins for therapeutic purposes, such as diagnosis of illnesses using proteins. “Enzyme Stabilization by Domain Insertion into a Thermophilic Protein” was published in the journal Protein Engineering, Design and Selection (October 2009). The first author is Chung-Sei Kim, a post doctoral researcher working under Jin Ryoun Kim, an assistant professor in NYU-Poly’s Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Brennal Pierre, a PhD graduate student in Kim’s laboratory, was one of the coauthors. They have applied for a provisional patent.

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