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Matti Leisola, Jouni Jokela, Ossi Pastinen, Ossi Turunen

Laboratory of Bioprocess Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, Finland, and

Hans Schoemaker, DSM Research, MD Geleen, The Netherlands

Industrial enzymes, speciality enzymes, protein engineering, enzyme technology, enzyme
production, biocatalysis, fine chemicals


1. Historical background
2. Enzyme classification
3. Enzyme production
3.1. Microbial production strains
3.2. Enzyme production by microbial fermentation
4. Protein engineering
5. Enzyme technology
6. Large scale enzyme applications
6.1. Detergents
6.2. Starch
6.3. Drinks
6.4. Textiles
6.5. Animal feed
6.6. Baking
6.7. Pulp and paper
6.8. Leather
7. Speciality enzymes
7.1. Enzymes in analytics
7.2. Enzymes in personal care products
7.3. Enzymes in DNA-technology
8. Enzymes in fine chemical production
8.1. Chirally pure amino acids and aspartame
8.2. Rare sugars
8.3. Semi synthetic penicillins
8.4. Lipase based reactions
8.5. Asymmetric synthesis
8.6. Enzymatic oligosaccharide synthesis
9. Future trends in industrial enzymology

Alkaline phosphatase: An enzyme that degrades ester bonds in alkaline conditions.

Amino acid amidase: An enzyme that is used in manufacturing optically pure amino acids.
It hydrolyses an amide bond in natural amino acid amides.
Amylase: A group of enzymes that hydrolyse chemical bonds between glucose
molecules present in starch. This group includes alpha-, beta- and
Aspartame: A low calorie high intensive sweetener.
Beta-glucanase: An enzyme that degrades beta-glucan commonly found e.g. in barley.
Biocatalyst: Isolated enzyme or a whole cell (living or dead)
Bromelain: A protein-degrading enzyme from plants.
Catalase: An enzyme that degrades hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water.
Cellulases: A group of enzymes that synergistically degrade cellulose fibers to
CLEC: Enzyme crystal that has been made insoluble by chemical cross-
linking; a method to immobilise and stabilise enzymes.
Chirally pure: Many organic molecules can have two chemically identical but
structurally mirror image forms. Chirally pure means that only one of
the forms is present.
Dextran sucrase: An enzyme, present in some lactic acid bacteria, that forms a glucose.
polymer and fructose from the disaccharide sucrose.
Dextran: Glucose containing branched polymer used e.g. in blood
DNA-polymerases: An enzyme that synthesizes DNA polymers.
Fermentor: A biological reactor for cultivation of microorganisms.
Ficin: A protein-degrading enzyme from plants.
Formate dehydrogenase: An enzyme that oxidises formate to carbon dioxide and NAD.
Glucoamylase: An enzyme that splits glucose molecules from starch.
Glucose oxidase: An enzyme that uses oxygen to oxidise glucose to gluconic acid and
hydrogen peroxide.
Glycosyltransferases: Catalyse the transfer of monosaccharides from a donor to saccharide
GRAS-status: is given to an organism that is Generally Regarded as Safe.
Hydrolases: Enzymes that break chemical bonds by adding water. They can be
used to form chemical bonds in the absence of water.
Hydroxynitrile lyase: An enzyme that catalyses the addition of HCN to aldehydes and
Immunoassay: This is an analytical method in which antibodies are used to detect
specific molecules.
Isomerases: Enzymes that catalyse intramolecular reactions.
Laccase: A polyphenol oxidase from fungi. This enzyme can use oxygen to
oxidise different types of aromatic molecules and to form lignin type
of aromatic polymers from phenolic compounds.
Lactase: his enzymes degrade milk-sugar lactose to glucose and galactose.
Lactose intolerant people can consume such milk.
Ligases: Enzymes that synthesize chemical bonds.
Lipoxygenase: A lipid oxidising enzyme extracted usually from soybeans.
Lyases: Enzymes that remove chemical groups from their substrates without
addition of water

Nitrile hydratases: Enzymes that catalyse addition of water to nitrales resulting in amide
Oxidoreductases: Enzymes that oxidise or reduce chemical compounds.
Papain: A protein degrading enzyme from animal gut.
Penicillin: An antibiotic substance extracted from molds.
Pepsin: An enzyme that degrades proteins and is isolated from animals.
Peroxidase: An oxidative heme-containing enzyme that uses hydrogen peroxide to
oxidise aromatic compounds. It is responsible for lignin biosynthesis
in plants and initiates lignin biodegradation by certain rot-fungi.
Phytase: A phosphatase enzyme that hydrolyses phosphoester bonds in phytic
acid. Is widely used in animal feeds.
Protein engineering: Improvement of enzyme protein by genetic methods.
Rare sugar: A sugar that is rare in nature.
Rennin: An aspartic protease which coagulates milk protein. It is used in
cheese manufacturing and isolated from calf stomach or produced by
recombinant fungi.
Restriction enzymes: Enzymes that recognise specific 4-8 nucleotides long sequencies from
DNA. They are important tools in gene technology.
Trypsin: An enzyme that degrades proteins and is isolated from animals.
Xylanase: A group of enzymes that degrade plant fibers made of xylose-sugars
to xylose monomers.
Xylitol: A tooth-friendly sugar alcohol used in chewing gums.


Enzymes have been used since the dawn of mankind in cheese manufacturing and indirectly via
yeasts and bacteria in food manufacturing. Isolated enzymes were first used in detergents in the year
1914, their protein nature proven in 1926 and their large-scale microbial production started in
1960s. Industrial enzyme business is steadily growing due to improved production technologies,
engineered enzyme properties and new application fields. The major part of enzymes is produced
by with GRAS-status microorganisms in large biological reactors called fermentors. Usually the
production organism and often also the individual enzyme have been genetically engineered for
maximal productivity and optimised enzyme properties. Large volume industrial enzymes are
usually not purified but sold as concentrated liquids or granulated dry products. Enzymes used in
special applications like diagnostics or DNA-technology need to be highly purified. Isolated
enzymes have found several applications in fine chemical industry. Enzymes are used in production
of chirally pure amino acids and rare sugars. They are also used in production of fructose and
penicillin derivatives as well as several other chemicals. Enzymes should be considered as a part of
a rapidly growing biocatalyst industry also involving genetically optimised living cells as chemical
production factories.

1. Historical background

Most of the reactions in living organisms are catalysed by protein molecules called enzymes.
Enzymes can rightly be called the catalytic machinery of living systems. Man has indirectly used
enzymes almost since the beginning of human history. Enzymes are responsible for the biocatalytic
fermentation of sugar to ethanol by yeasts, a reaction that forms the bases of beer and wine

manufacturing. Enzymes oxidise ethanol to acetic acid. This reaction has been used in vinegar
production for thousands of years. Similar microbial enzyme reactions of acid forming bacteria and
yeasts are responsible for aroma forming activities in bread making and in preserving activities in
sauerkraut preparation.

The fermentative activity of microorganisms was discovered only in 18th century and finally proved
by the French scientist Louis Pasteur. The term “enzyme” comes from Latin words, which literally
mean “in yeast”. This name was given since enzymes where closely associated with yeast activity.
The study of enzymes is a fairly recent activity. Scientists who found out that an alcohol precipitate
of malt extract contained a thermo labile substance, which converted starch into sugar, made the
first clear recognition of enzymes in 1833. They called the substance diastase. We know now that it
was an enzyme nowadays called amylase. Sumner finally proved the protein nature of enzymes in
1926 when he was able to crystallize urease enzyme from jack bean.

Probably the first application of cell free enzymes was the use of rennin isolated from calf or lamb
stomach in cheese making. Rennin is an aspartic protease (see Mechanisms of Enzyme Action)
which coagulates milk protein and has been used for hundreds of years by cheese makers. Röhm in
Germany prepared the first commercial enzyme preparation in 1914. This trypsin enzyme isolated
from animals degraded proteins and was used as a detergent. It proved to be so powerful compared
to traditional washing powders that the original small package size made the German housewives
suspicious so that the product had to be reformulated and sold in larger packages. The real
breakthrough of enzymes occurred with the introduction of microbial proteases into washing
powders. The first commercial bacterial Bacillus protease was marketed in 1959 and became big
business when Novozymes in Denmark started to manufacture it and major detergent manufactures
started to use it around 1965.

In food industry - in addition to cheese manufacturing - enzymes were used already in 1930 in fruit
juice manufacturing. These enzymes clarify the juice. They are called pectinases, which contain
numerous different enzyme activities. The major usage of microbial enzymes in food industry
started in 1960s in starch industry. The traditional acid hydrolysis of starch was completely replaced
by alpha-amylases and glucoamylases, which could convert starch with over 95%, yield to glucose.
Starch industry became the second largest user of enzymes after detergent industry.

Presently the industrial enzyme companies sell enzymes for a wide variety of applications. The
estimated value of world enzyme market is presently about US $ 1.3 billion and it has been
forecasted to grow to almost US $ 2 billion by 2005. Detergents (37%), textiles (12%), starch
(11%), baking (8%) and animal feed (6%) are the main industries, which use about 75% of
industrially, produced enzymes. Enzymes are also indirectly used in biocatalytic processes
involving living or dead and permeabilised microorganisms. This review concentrates on the use of
isolated enzyme preparations in large scale and speciality applications and chemical manufacturing.
The use of microorganisms as biocatalysts in chemical production is, however, an interesting and
growing field. The techniques of genetic, protein and pathway engineering are making chemical
production by living cells an interesting green alternative to replace traditional chemical processes.

2. Enzyme classification

Presently more than 2000 different enzyme activities have been isolated and characterized [see
Enzymology; Concept and Scope of Enzyme Action]. The sequence information of a growing
number of organisms opens the possibility to characterise all the enzymes of an organism on a
genomic level. The smallest known organism, Mycoplasma genitalium, contains 470 genes of
which 145 are related to gene replication and transcription. Baker’s yeast has 7000 genes coding for
about 3000 enzymes. Thousands of different variants of the natural enzymes are known. The

number of reported 3-dimensional enzyme structures is rapidly increasing. In the year 2000 the
structure of about 1300 different proteins were known. The enzymes are classified into six major
categories based on the nature of the chemical reaction they catalyse:

1. Oxidoreductases catalyse oxidation or reduction of their substrates

2. Transferases catalyse group transfer
3. Hydrolases catalyse bond breakage with the addition of water
4. Lyases remove groups from their substrates
5. Isomerases catalyse intramolecular rearrangements
6. Ligases catalyse the joining of two molecules at the expense of chemical energy

Only a limited number of all the known enzymes are commercially available and even smaller
amount is used in large quantities. More than 75% of industrial enzymes are hydrolases. Protein-
degrading enzymes constitute about 40% of all enzyme sales. Proteinases have found new
applications but their use in detergents is the major market. More than fifty commercial industrial
enzymes are available and their number increases steadily.

3. Enzyme production

Some enzymes are still extracted from animal or plant tissues. Plant derived commercial enzymes
include proteolytic enzymes papain, bromelain and ficin and some other speciality enzymes like
lipoxygenase from soybeans. Animal derived enzymes include proteinases like pepsin and rennin.
Most of the enzymes are, however, produced by microorganisms in submerged cultures in large
reactors called fermentors. The enzyme production process can be divided into following phases:

1. Selection of an enzyme
2. Selection of a production strain
3. Construction of an overproducing strain by genetic engineering
4. Optimisation of culture medium and production conditions
5. Optimisation of recovery process (and purification if needed)
6. Formulation of a stable enzyme product

Criteria used in the selection of an industrial enzyme include specificity, reaction rate, pH and
temperature optima and stability, effect of inhibitors and affinity to substrates. Enzymes used in
paper industry should not contain cellulose-degrading activity as a side activity because this activity
would damage the cellulose fibres. Enzymes used in animal feed industry must be thermo tolerant
to survive in the hot extrusion process used in animal feed manufacturing. The same enzymes must
have maximal activity at the body temperature of the animal. Enzymes used in industrial
applications must usually be tolerant against various heavy metals and have no need for cofactors.
They should be maximally active already in the presence of low substrate concentration so that the
desired reaction proceeds to completion in a realistic time frame.

3.1. Microbial production strains

In choosing the production strain several aspects have to be considered. Ideally the enzyme is
secreted from the cell. This makes the recovery and purification process much simpler compared to
production of intracellular enzymes, which must be purified from thousands of different cell
proteins and other components. Secondly, the production host should have a GRAS-status, which
means that it is Generally Regarded As Safe. This is especially important when the enzyme
produced by the organism is used in food processes. Thirdly, the organism should be able to
produce high amount of the desired enzyme in a reasonable time frame. The industrial strains

typically produce over 50-g/l extracellular enzyme proteins. Most of the industrial enzymes are
produced by a relatively few microbial hosts like Aspergillus and Trichoderma fungi, Streptomyces
fungi imperfecti and Bacillus bacteria. Yeasts are not good produces of extracellular enzymes and
are rarely used for this purpose. Most of the industrially used microorganisms have been genetically
modified to overproduce the desired activity and not to produce undesired side activities.

3.2. Enzyme production by microbial fermentation

Once the biological production organism has been genetically engineered to overproduce the
desired products, a production process has to be developed. The optimisation of a fermentation
process includes media composition, cultivation type and process conditions. This is a demanding
task and often involves as much effort as the intracellular engineering of the cell. The bioprocess
engineer asks questions like: is the organism in question safe or are extra precautions needed, what
kind of nutrients the organism needs and what is their optimal/ economical concentration, how the
nutrients should be sterilised, what kind of a reactor is needed (mass transfer, aeration, cooling,
foam control, sampling), what needs to be measured and how is the process controlled, how is the
organism cultivated (batch, fed-batch or continuous cultivation), what are the optimal growth
conditions, what is the specific growth and product formation rate, what is the yield and volumetric
productivity, how to maximise cell concentration in the reactor, is the product secreted out from the
cells, how to degrade the cell if the product is intracellular, does some of the raw materials or
products inhibit the organism and finally, how to recover, purify and preserve the product. A typical
enzyme production scheme is shown in Figure 1.

The large volume industrial enzymes are produced in 50 – 500 m3 fermentors. The extracellular
enzymes are often recovered after cell removal (by vacuum drum filtration, separators or
microfiltration) by ultrafiltration. If needed the purification is carried out by ion exchange or gel
filtration. The final product is either a concentrated liquid with necessary preservatives like salts or
polyols or alternatively granulated to a non-dusty dry product. Enzymes are proteins, which like any
protein can cause and have caused in the past allergic reactions. Therefore protective measures are
necessary in their production and application.

4. Protein engineering

Often enzymes do not have the desired properties for an industrial application. One can in such a
case try to find a better enzyme from nature. Extensive search for new enzyme variants in
organisms that grow in extreme conditions has been going on for more than 20 years but has
resulted in relatively few successes. Sometimes a desired property, like extreme thermo stability,
has been found but other problems have surfaced. The enzyme may not be functional in the desired
temperature. It may also prove very difficult to overproduce the enzyme in a suitable host. Another
option is to engineer a commercially available enzyme to be a better industrial catalyst. Two
different approaches are presently available: a random method called directed evolution and a
protein engineering method called rational design. Table 1 summarises some of the reasons why
industrial enzymes need to be modified and table 2 describes some of the required tools used in
modification work.

Several enzymes have already been engineered to function better in industrial processes. These
include proteinases, lipases, cellulases, α -amylases and glucoamylases. Xylanase is a good
example of an industrial enzyme, which needs to be stable in high temperature and active in
physiological temperatures and pHs when used as feed additive and in alkaline conditions when it is
used in bleaching in pulp and paper industry. One of the industrial production organisms of
xylanases is Trichoderma fungus. Its xylanase has been purified and crystallized. By designed

mutagenesis its thermal stability has been increased about 2000 times at 70 oC and its pH-optimum
shifted towards alkaline region by one pH-unit. The three dimensional structure of a xylanase
enzyme is shown in Figure 2. The known structure of an enzyme is used to design and simulate
mutations. The most successful strategies to improve the stability of the Trichoderma xylanase
include the stabilization of the alpha-helix region and the N-terminus.

5. Enzyme technology

How are the enzymes used and applied in practical processes? This is the field of enzyme
technology. The simplest way to use enzymes is to add them into a process stream where they
catalyse the desired reaction and are gradually inactivated during the process. This happens in many
bulk enzyme applications like liquefaction of starch with amylases, bleaching of cellulose pulp with
xylanases or use of enzymes in animal feed. In these applications the price of the enzymes must be
low to make their use economical. Extracellularly produced bulk enzyme concentrates cost only US
$ 10-20/ kg protein.

An alternative way to use enzymes is to immobilise them so that they can be reused. The largest
application of an immobilised enzyme is the conversion of glucose syrup to high fructose syrup for
food applications. In the early applications the glucose isomerase enzyme containing cells were
permeabilised and immobilized on a solid support. The enzyme containing support material was
packed into a column through which the glucose solution was passed. Finnish Sugar Company
developed in early 80s an alternative method where the intracellular glucose isomerase from
Streptomyces rubiginosus was purified by crystallization and the pure enzyme was bound to an
anion exchange resin, which can be regenerated with fresh enzyme after the previous one is
inactivated. Another way to immobilise enzymes is to use ultrafiltration membranes in the reactor
system. The large enzyme molecules cannot pass the membrane but the small molecular reaction
products can. Therefore enzymes are retained in a reaction system and the products leave the system
continuously. This method has been used in production of chirally pure amino acids from racemic
mixtures of amino acid derivatives. Enzymes have also been immobilized on membranes for
analytical purposes. The best-known example is glucose oxidase, which is used to measure glucose
concentrations in biological samples. Many different laboratory methods for enzyme
immobilization based on chemical reaction, entrapment, specific binding or absorption have been

A novel approach to use enzymes was introduced by Finnish Sugar Company in the late 80s. It was
based on the use of cross-linked crystalline glucose isomerase (Figure 3). Enzyme crystals contain
usually 30-80% free water and the enzyme is active even in the cross-linked insoluble form. The
dimensions of an enzyme reactor, packed with this kind of a material, are considerably smaller
compared to traditional immobilized systems because the carrier matrix can be completely omitted.
The concept, originally developed in Finland, was later applied to other enzymes by Altus Ltd in
USA, which has developed novel applications for the CLECs, which is the trademark for Cross-
Linked Enzyme Crystals. These applications include chiral separations, controlled release of
chemicals, specific separations and recently even cofactor entrapment into the crystal structure. All
this is possible because an enzyme crystal contains water, pores, active centre, hydrophobic areas
and ionic properties.

6. Large scale enzyme applications

Table 3 summarises major large-scale enzyme applications. Each of them is discussed in the text in
some detail. Industrial Enzymology is recommended as a good resource text for those who need a
more comprehensive treatment of an individual subject.

6.1. Detergents

Detergents were the first large scale application for microbial enzymes. Bacterial proteinases are
still the most important detergent enzymes. Some products have been genetically engineered to be
more stable in the hostile environment of washing machines with several different chemicals
present. These hostile agents include anionic detergents, oxidising agents and high pH.

Late 80s lipid degrading enzymes were introduced in powder and liquid detergents. Lipases
decompose fats into more water-soluble compounds by hydrolysing the ester bonds between the
glycerol backbone and fatty acid. The most important lipase in the market was originally obtained
from Humicola lanuginose. It is produced in large scale by Aspergillus oryzae host after cloning the
Humicola gene into this organism.

Amylases are used in detergents to remove starch based stains. Amylases hydrolyse gelatinised
starch, which tends to stick on textile fibres and bind other stain components. Cellulases have been
part of detergents since early 90s. Cellulase is actually an enzyme complex capable of degrading
crystalline cellulose to glucose. In textile washing cellulases remove cellulose microfibrils, which
are formed during washing and the use of cotton based cloths. This can be seen as colour
brightening and softening of the material. Alkaline cellulases are produced by Bacillus strains and
neutral and acidic cellulases by Trichoderma and Humicola fungi.

6.2. Starch hydrolysis and fructose production

The use of starch degrading enzymes was the first large-scale application of microbial enzymes in
food industry. Mainly two enzymes carry out conversion of starch to glucose: alpha-amylase cuts
rapidly the large alpha-1,4-linked glucose polymers into shorter oligomers in high temperature. This
phase is called liquefaction and is carried out by bacterial enzymes. In the next phase called
saccharification, glucoamylase hydrolyses the oligomers into glucose. This is done by fungal
enzymes, which operate in lower pH and temperature than alpha-amylase. Sometimes additional
debranching enzymes like pullulanase are added to improve the glucose yield. Beta-amylase is
commercially produced from barley grains and used for the production of the disaccharide maltose.

In the United States large volumes of glucose syrups are converted by glucose isomerase after Ca2+
(alpha-amylase needs Ca2+ for activity but it inhibits glucose isomerase) removal to fructose
containing syrup. This is done by bacterial enzymes, which need Mg2+ ions for activity. Fructose is
separated from glucose by large-scale chromatographic separation and crystallized. Alternatively,
fructose is concentrated to 55% and used as a high fructose corn syrup in soft drink industry.

An alternative method to produce fructose is shown in Figure 4. This method is used in Europe and
uses sucrose as a starting material. Sucrose is split by invertase into glucose and fructose, fructose
separated and crystallized and then the glucose circulated back to the process.

6.3. Drinks

Enzymes have many applications in drink industry. The use of chymosin in cheese making to
coagulate milk protein was already discussed. Another enzyme used in milk industry is beta-
galactosidase or lactase, which splits milk-sugar lactose into glucose and galactose. This process is
used for milk products that are consumed by lactose intolerant consumers.

Enzymes are used also in fruit juice manufacturing. Fruit cell wall needs to be broken down to
improve juice liberation. Pectins are polymeric substances in fruit lamella and cell walls. They are
closely related to polysaccharides. The cell wall contains also hemicelluloses and cellulose.
Addition of pectinase, xylanase and cellulase improve the liberation of the juice from the pulp.
Pectinases and amylases are used in juice clarification.

Brewing is an enzymatic process. Malting is a process, which increases the enzyme levels in the
grain. In the mashing process the enzymes are liberated and they hydrolyse the starch into soluble
fermentable sugars like maltose, which is a glucose disaccharide. Additional enzymes can be used
to help the starch hydrolysis (typically alpha-amylases), solve filtration problems caused by beta-
glucans present in malt (beta-glucanases), hydrolyse proteins (neutral proteinase), and control haze
during maturation, filtration and storage (papain, alpha-amylase and beta-glucanase).

Similarly enzymes are widely used in wine production to obtain a better extraction of the necessary
components and thus improving the yield. Enzymes hydrolyse the high molecular weight
substances like pectin.

6.4. Textiles

The use of enzymes in textile industry is one of the most rapidly growing fields in industrial
enzymology. Starch has for a long time been used as a protective glue of fibres in weaving of
fabrics. This is called sizing. Enzymes are used to remove the starch in a process called desizing.
Amylases are used in this process since they do not harm the textile fibres.

Enzymes have replaced the use of volcanic lava stones in the preparation of Denim (special soft
cotton based fibre where the dye has been partially faded away) from an indigo-dyed cotton fibre to
achieve a high degree of dye fading. The stones caused considerable damage to fibres and
machines. The same effect can be obtained with cellulase enzymes. The effect is a result of
alternating cycles of desizing and bleaching enzymes and chemicals in washing machines.

Recently, hydrogen peroxides have been tested as bleaching agents to replace chlorine-based
chemicals. Catalase enzyme, which destroys hydrogen peroxide, may then be used to degrade
excess peroxide. Another recent approach is to use oxidative enzymes directly to bleach textiles.
Laccase – a polyphenol oxidase from fungi - is a new candidate in this field.
Laccases are produced by white-rot fungi, which use them to degrade lignin - the aromatic polymer
found in all plant materials. Laccase is a copper-containing enzyme, which is oxidised by oxygen,
and which in an oxidised state can oxidatively degrade many different types of molecules like dye

Other enzymes, which interact with textiles, are often added to washing powders. These examples
were discussed under detergent enzymes.

6.5. Animal feed

Intensive study to use enzymes in animal feed started in early 80s. The first commercial success
was addition of beta-glucanase into barley based feed diets. Barley contains beta-glucan, which
causes high viscosity in the chicken gut. The net effect of enzyme usage in feed has been increased
animal weight gain with the same amount of barley resulting in increased feed conversion ratio.
Finnfeeds International was the pioneer in animal feed enzymes.

Enzymes were tested later also in wheat-based diets. Xylanase enzymes were found to be the most
effective ones in this case. Addition of xylanase to wheat-based broiler feed has increased the
available metabolizable energy 7-10% in various studies. Xylanases are nowadays routinely used in
feed formulations. Figure 2 shows the three-dimensional structure of a Trichoderma xylanase.
Usually a feed-enzyme preparation is a multienzyme cocktail containing glucanases, xylanases,
proteinases and amylases. Enzyme addition reduces viscosity, which increases absorbtion of
nutrients, liberatates nutrients either by hydrolysis of non-degradable fibres or by liberating
nutrients blocked by these fibres, and reduces the amount of faeces.

Another type of important feed enzyme is phytase marketed e.g. by DSM in the Netherlands.
Phytase is a phosphoesterase which liberates phosphate from phytic acid which is a common
compound in plant based feed materials. The net effect is reduced phosphorous in faeces resulting
in reduced environmental pollution. The use of phytase reduces the need to add phosphorus to the
feed diet.

Enzymes have become an important aspect of animal feed industry. In addition to poultry, enzymes
are used in pig feeds and turkey feeds. They are added as enzyme premixes (enzyme-flour mixture)
during the feed manufacturing process, which involves extrusion of wet feed mass in high
temperature (80-90 OC). Therefore the feed enzymes need to be thermo tolerant during the feed
manufacturing and operative in the animal body temperature.

6.6. Baking

Similar fibre materials are used in baking than in animal feed. It is therefore conceivable that
enzymes also affect the baking process. Alpha-amylases have been most widely studied in
connection with improved bread quality and increased shelf life. Both fungal and bacterial amylases
are used. Overdosage may lead to sticky dough so the added amount needs to be carefully

One of the motivations to study the effect of enzymes on dough and bread qualities comes from the
pressure to reduce other additives. In addition to starch, flour typically contains minor amounts of
cellulose, glucans and hemicelluloses like arabinoxylan and arabinogalactan. There is evidence that
the use of xylanases decreases the water absorption and thus reduces the amount of added water
needed in baking. This leads to more stable dough. Especially xylanases are used in whole meal rye
baking and dry crisps common in Scandinavia.

Proteinases can be added to improve dough-handling properties; glucose oxidase has been used to
replace chemical oxidants and lipases to strengthen gluten, which leads to more stable dough and
better bread quality.

6.7. Pulp and Paper

Intensive studies have been carried out during the last twenty years to apply many different
enzymes in pulp and paper industry. A real excitement started with the discovery of lignin
degrading peroxidases in the early 80s. In spite of extensive research no oxidative enzymes are
applied in pulp and paper industry. The major application is the use of xylanases in pulp bleaching.
Xylanases liberate lignin fragments by hydrolysing residual xylan. This reduces considerably the
need for chlorine based bleaching chemicals. Other minor enzyme applications in pulp production
include the use of enzymes to remove fine particles from pulp. This facilitates water removal.

In the use of secondary (recycled) cellulose fibre the removal of ink is important. The fibre is
diluted to 1% concentration with water, flocculating surfactants and ink solvents added and the

mixture is aerated. The ink particles float to the surface. There are reports that this process is
facilitated by addition of cellulase enzymes.

In paper making enzymes are used especially in modification of starch, which is used as an
important additive. Starch improves the strength, stiffness and erasability of paper. The starch
suspension must have a certain viscosity, which is achieved by adding amylase enzymes in a
controlled process.

Pitch is a sticky substance present mainly in softwoods. It is composed of lipids. It is a special

problem when mechanical pulps of red pine are used as a raw material. Pitch causes problems in
paper machines and can be removed by lipases.

6.8. Leather

Leather industry uses proteolytic and lipolytic enzymes in leather processing. The use of these
enzymes is associated with the structure of animal skin as a raw material. Enzymes are used to
remove unwanted parts. Alkaline proteases are added in the soaking phase. This improves water
uptake by the dry skins, removal and degradation of protein, dirt and fats and reduces the processing
time. In some cases pancreatic trypsin is also used in this phase.

In dehairing and dewooling phases enzymes are used to assist the alkaline chemical process. This
results in a more environmentally friendly process and improves the quality of the leather (cleaner
and stronger surface, softer leather, less spots). The used enzymes are typically alkaline bacterial
proteases. Lipases are used in this phase or in bating phase to specifically remove grease. The use of
lipases is a fairly new development in leather industry.

The next phase is bating which aims at deliming and deswelling of collagen. In this phase the
protein is partly degraded to make the leather soft and easier to dye. Pancreatic trypsins were
originally used but they are being partly replaced by bacterial and fungal enzymes.

7. Speciality enzymes

In addition to large volume enzyme applications, there are a large number of speciality applications
for enzymes. These include use of enzymes in analytical applications, flavour production, protein
modification, and personal care products, DNA-technology and in fine chemical production. The
latter application will be separately discussed because of its importance. Here we discuss the other
aspects of speciality enzymes.

7.1. Enzymes in analytics

Enzymes are widely used in the clinical analytical methodology. Contrary to bulk industrial
enzymes these enzymes need to be free from side activities. This means that elaborate purification
processes are needed. Table 4 summarises some of the main analytes measured enzymatically.
Normally automatic analysers carry out these measurements. The reactions normally involve either
changes in NAD(P)/NAD(P)H proportions, which can be detected spectrophotometrically or
production of H2O2 which can be detected in peroxidase catalysed reactions leading to coloured
products, which can be easily quantified spectrophotometrically.

Immunoassays are based on detection of target molecules by specific antibodies. The detection of
the antibody-antigen complex is usually based on enzymes linked to the antibodies. This enzyme is

either an alkaline phosphatase, which can be detected in colour forming reaction by p-nitrophenyl
phosphate or peroxidase, which is detected in the presence of H2O2 with a colour forming substrate.

An important development in analytical chemistry is biosensors. They are based on H 2O2 producing
oxidative enzymes. Two different types of electrodes, one based on peroxide detection and the other
based on oxygen consumption, can be used to quantify the analyte in question. The most widely
used application is a glucose biosensor involving glucose oxidase catalysed reaction:

glucose + O2 + H2O  gluconic acid + H2O2

Several commercial instruments are available which apply this principle for measurement of
molecules like glucose, lactate, lactose, sucrose, ethanol, methanol, cholesterol and some amino

7.2. Enzymes in personal care products

Personal care products are a relatively new area for enzymes and the amounts used are small but
worth to mention as a future growth area. One application is contact lens cleaning. Proteinase and
lipase containing enzyme solutions are used for this purpose. Hydrogen peroxide is used in
disinfections of contact lenses. The residual hydrogen peroxide after disinfections can be removed
by a heme containing catalase enzyme, which degrades hydrogen peroxide.

Some toothpaste contains glucoamylase and glucose oxidase. The reasoning behind this practise is
that glucoamylase liberates glucose from starch-based oligomers produced by alpha-amylase and
glucose oxidase converts glucose to gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide which both function as

Dentures can be cleaned with protein degrading enzyme solutions. Enzymes are studied also for
applications in skin and hair care products.

7.3. Enzymes in DNA-technology

DNA-technology has revolutionised both traditional biotechnology and opened totally new fields
for scientific study. It is also an important tool in enzyme industry. Most traditional enzymes are
produced by organisms, which have been genetically modified to overproduce the desired enzyme.
Recombinant DNA-technology allows one to produce new enzymes in traditional overproducing
and safe organisms. Protein engineering is used to modify and improve existing enzymes as
discussed under Protein engineering. Enzymes are the tools needed in genetic engineering and are
shortly discussed here. For more information the reader is referred to specific texts dealing with
genetic engineering.

DNA is basically a long chain of deoxyribose sugars linked together by phosphodiester bonds.
Organic bases, adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine are linked to the sugars and form the
alphabet of genes. The specific order of the organic bases in the chain constitutes the genetic
language. Genetic engineering means reading and modifying this language. Enzymes are crucial
tools in this process. The DNA modifying enzymes can be divided into two classes:

1. Restriction enzymes recognise specific DNA sequences and cut the chain at these recognition
2. DNA modifying enzymes synthesize nucleic acids, degrade them, join pieces together and
remove parts of the DNA.

Restriction enzymes recognise a specific code sequence in the DNA. This is usually 4-8 nucleotides
long sequence. Their role in nature is to cut foreign DNA material. These enzymes do not cut the
cell’s own DNA because its recognition sites are protected. More than 150 different restriction
enzymes have been isolated from several bacterial species and they are used in cutting the DNA in
question at specific points. These enzymes are essential in gene technology.

DNA-polymerases synthesize new DNA-chains. Many of them need a model template, which they
copy. Nucleases hydrolyse the phosphodiester bonds between DNA sugars. Kinases add phosphate
groups and phosphatases remove them from the end of DNA chain. Ligases join adjacent
nucleotides together by forming fosfodiester bonds between them.

In the cell these enzymes are involved in DNA replication, degradation of foreign DNA, repairing
of mutated DNA and in recombining different DNA molecules. The enzymes used in gene
technology are produced like any other enzyme but their purification needs extra attention. Many
restriction enzymes from different sources are produced in Eshcerichia coli by recombinant DNA
technology. They are often labile and therefore preserved at –20 OC in buffered glycerol solution.

8. Enzymes in fine chemical production

Biocatalysis has been used in fine chemical production for a long time. Usually the catalyst has
been a living organism. Ethanol, acetic acid, antibiotics, vitamins, pigments, solvents are but a few
examples of biotechnical products. One of the reasons to use whole cell catalysts lies in the need to
combine chemical energy source (in the form of ATP) or reducing/oxidising power (in the form of
NAD(P)H) to the production process. This is elegantly done in a living cell. Candida yeasts can
reduce the 5-carbon sugar xylose to a tooth-friendly polyol called xylitol by a xylose reductase

xylose + NADH  xylitol + NAD

The enzyme can be isolated and the reaction proceeds easily in a test tube. However, the reducing
power of NADH has to be regenerated for the reaction to proceed. This is done in a living cell by
other reactions, which reduce NAD back to NADH. One can isolate another enzyme, which does
the same and couples two reactions together. One suitable enzyme is formate dehydrogenase:

xylose + NADH  xylitol + NAD

formate + NAD  CO2 + NADH

Coupled enzymatic reactions have been extensively studied but only few commercial examples are
known. Leucine dehydrogenase is used commercially to produce L-tert- leucine with a concomitant
cofactor recycling using the formate reduction for cofactor regeneration. In spite of some successes,
commercial production of chemicals by living cells using pathway engineering is still in many cases
the best alternative to apply biocatalysis. Isolated enzymes have, however, been successfully used in
fine chemical synthesis. We discuss here some of the most important examples.

8.1. Chirally pure amino acids and aspartame

Natural as well as synthetic amino acids are widely used in the food, feed, agrochemical and
pharmaceutical industries. Many proteinogenic amino acids are used in infusion solutions and
essential amino acids as animal feed additives. Aspartic acid and phenyl alanine methyl ester are
combined to form the low calorie sweetener aspartame. In addition to natural amino acids also

synthetic ones are intermediates in the production of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. For
example several thousand tons of D-phenylglycine and D-p-hydroxyphenylglycine are produced
annually for the synthesis of the broad-spectrum antibiotics ampicillin, amoxicillin, cefalexin and

Natural amino acids are usually produced by microbial fermentation. Novel enzymatic resolution
methods have been developed for the production of L- as well as for D-amino acids. The concept is
based on the specificity of enzymes to detect only one of the two chiral molecules of amino acid
derivatives. One approach is described in scheme 1. Racemic mixture of amino acid amides is
synthesized by Strecker synthesis. Permeabilised cells of Pseudomonas putida containing amino
acid amidase enzyme are used to specifically hydrolyse the natural form. L-form of the amino acid
is produced and separated. The D-form can then be chemically formed or recycled after

Aspartame, the intensive non-calorie sweetener, is synthesized in non-aqueous conditions by

thermolysin, a proteolytic enzyme, from N-protected aspartic acid and phenylalanine methyl ester
(Scheme 2). The enzyme catalyses not only a typical condensation reaction in the absence of water
but shows remarkable selectivity in forming the correct bond to form aspartame. After the
condensation reaction the protective group is removed.

8.2. Rare sugars

Non-natural monosaccharides are needed as starting materials for new chemicals and
pharmaceuticals. Examples are L-ribose, D-psicose, L-xylose, D-tagatose and others. Some of the
sugars are presently produced by chemical isomerization or epimerisation. Recently enzymatic
methods have been developed to manufacture practically all D- and L-forms of simple sugars.
Figure 4 gives an example how enzymes can be used to convert sucrose into various natural sugars
and a rare sugar psicose.

Glucose isomerase is one of the important industrial enzymes used in fructose manufacturing.
Recently it has been shown that it can catalyse previously unknown conversions. For example L-
arabinose is isomerised to L-ribulose and slowly also to L-ribose. D-xylose is isomerised to D-
xylulose and slowly to D-lyxose. Also 4-carbon sugars are good substrates. Enzymatic methods are
an important tool in production of rare sugars.

8.3. Semisynthetic penicillins

Penicillin is produced by genetically modified strains of Penicillium strains. Most of the penicillin
is converted by immobilised acylase enzyme to 6-aminopenicillanic acid, which serves as a
backbone for many semisynthetic penicillins. These can be synthesized by chemical or enzymatic

8.4. Lipase based reactions

In addition to detergent applications lipases can be used in versatile chemical reactions since they
are active in organic solvents. Thus water can be replaced by other nucleophiles like alcohols. The
transferase activity of lipases is used to convert low value fats into more valuable ones in
transesterification reactions. This occurs when low value fats are incubated in the presence of
lipases and fatty acids. Lipases have also been used to form aromatic and aliphatic polymers. The
enzyme can be used for enantiomeric separation of alcohols. In place of alcohols also amines can be
used as the nucleophile. This makes it possible to separate rasemic amine mixtures. Chirally pure

amines can be used as building blocks for bioactive molecules. Several other intensively studied
synthetic reactions are possible in lipase-catalysed reactions.

8.5. Asymmetric synthesis

Proteases and lipases are used in biocatalytic chiral hydrolytic resolutions as shown in scheme 1.
Chiral compounds can alternatively be produced in biocatalytic asymmetric syntheses in which a
prochiral precursor is converted to a chiral molecule by enantioselective addition reaction. Lyases
catalyse the addition of a substance to a double bond or the elimination of a group resulting in an
unsaturated bond. A chiral compound is formed in such a reaction. Ammonia lyases are used to
produce amino acids from alpha-keto acid precursors. Example is L-aspartate ammonia lyase in
production of L-aspartic acid.

A novel lyase application involves hydroxynitrile lyase, which catalyses the addition of HCN to
aldehydes and ketones. The enzyme from rubber tree has been cloned and overexpressed in
microorganisms. This enzyme produces valuable chemical intermediates.

A third important biocatalytic enzyme group is nitrile hydratases. They catalyse the addition of
water to nitriles resulting in the formation of amides. They are used for example in the production
of acrylamide from acrylonitrile and nicotine amide.

8.6. Enzymatic oligosaccharide synthesis

The chemical synthesis of oligosaccharides is a complicated multi-step effort. The saccharide

building blocks must be selectively protected then coupled and finally deprotected to obtain desired
stereochemistry and regiochemistry. Biocatalytic synthesis with isolated enzymes like
glycosyltransferases and glycosidases or engineered whole cells are powerful alternatives to
chemical methods.

Glycosyltransferases catalyse the transfer of monosaccharides from a donor to saccharide acceptors.

Typically the donor is a nucleotide. The type of donor that the enzyme utilises and the position and
stereochemistry of the transfer to the acceptor classify these enzymes. These enzymes can also be
extracellular. Leuconostoc lactic acid bacteria produce an enzyme called dextran sucrase. It converts
sucrose into fructose and a glucose polymer called dextran (Figure 4). Dextran is used in biomedical
applications and as a matrix in separation processes. The enzyme can use other molecules than
glucose as acceptor and thus novel oligomers with e.g. antibacterial properties can be produced.
Glycosidases are hydrolytic enzymes, which can be used for synthetic reactions in a similar manner
than thermolysin is used for aspartame synthesis. Oligosaccharides have found applications in
cosmetics, medicines and as functional foods.

9. Future trends in industrial enzymology

Industrial enzyme market grows steadily. The reason for this lies in improved production efficiency
resulting in cheaper enzymes, in new application fields and in new enzymes from screening
programmes or in engineered properties of traditional enzymes. New applications are to be expected
in the field of textiles, new animal diets like ruminant and fish feed. It can be expected that
breakthroughs in pulp and paper will materialise. The use of cellulases to convert waste cellulose
into sugars and further to ethanol by fermentative organisms has been a major study topic for years.
Increasing environmental pressures and energy prices will make this application a real possibility
one day.

Tailoring enzymes for specific applications will be a future trend with continuously improving tools
and understanding of structure-function relationships and increased search for enzymes from exotic
environments. This means that there will be a specifically tailored xylanase for baking, another for
feed and a third one for pulp bleaching.

New technical tools to use enzymes as crystalline catalysts, ability to recycle cofactors, and
engineering enzymes to function in various solvents with multiple activities are important
technological developments, which will steadily create new applications.

Enzymes should, however, not be considered alone but rather as a part of a biocatalyst technology.
Whole cell catalysts, increased ability to engineer metabolic pathways and a combination of specific
biocatalytic reactions with organic chemistry form a basis to develop new technologies for chemical


Bhat M (2000) Cellulases and related enzymes in biotechnology. Biotechnology Advances 18, 355-
383. [This review paper discusses present and possible future trends; xylanases were first suggested
for pulp bleaching by VTT-Biotechnology in Finland, Röhm Enzyme is the leader in the field see]
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (2000) 1543, 203-252 [Contains several reviews of engineered
enzymes of industrial importance]
Chotani G., Dodge T., Hsu A., Kumar M., LaDuca R., Trimbur D., Weyler W. and Sandford K.
(2000) The commercial production of chemicals using pathway engineering. Biochimica et
Biophysica Acta 1543, 434-455. [This review article discusses the latest trends in using engineered
organisms in chemical production]
Doran P.M. (1999) Bioprocess Engineering Principles. 439 pp. Academic Press. [A textbook,
which describes engineering aspects of bioprocesses]
Flickinger M.C. and Drew S.W. (eds., 1999) Encyclopedia of Bioprocess Technology:
fermentation, biocatalysis, and bioseparation (5 volumes), John Wiley & Sons [Good resource
book on all aspects of modern bioprocess technologies]
Godfrey T. and West S. (eds, 1996) Industrial Enzymology, Macmillan [This is a basic textbook on
industrial enzymes, authored by industrial experts; is a webpage of world´s
largest enzyme company, second largest is Genencor Int. Inc.,];
Palcic M.M. (1999) Biocatalytic synthesis of oligosaccharides. Current Opinion in Biotechnology
10, 616-624 [A good review with several references about the topic]
Pastinen O, Visuri K, Schoemaker H and Leisola M (1999) Novel reactions of xylose isomerase
from Streptomyces rubiginosus. Enzyme and Microbial Technology 25, 695-700. [Glucose
isomerase is a traditional name; xylose isomerase would be a more correct name although it has
recently been shown to catalyse many monosaccharide isomerizations]
Schmid A., Dordick J.S., Hauer B., Kiener A., Wubbolts M. and Witholt B. (2001) Industrial
biocatalysis today and tomorrow. Nature 409, 258-268 [A good review article on developments of
enzymatic and whole cell biocatalytic applications and trends in chemical industry; is a page of a recently formed International Society of Rare
Visuri, K. (1987) Stable glucose isomerase concentrate and a process for the preparation thereof.
US Patent 4,699,882 [This patent describes the first large scale crystallization process of an
intracellular industrial enzyme] and Visuri, K. (1995) Preparation of cross-linked glucose isomerase
crystals. US Pat. 5437993. [This patent describes the first preparation of a cross-linked enzyme
crystal catalyst]

Figure 1. A typical enzyme production scheme. Large volume industrial enzymes are usually
not purified. Their recovery is often finalised by an ultrafiltration step. Speciality
enzymes need more purification.

Figure 2. Three-dimensional structure of a Trichoderma xylanase II. This enzyme is used in
baking to improve bread quality, in animal feed to improve digestibility of feed, in
cellulose pulp bleaching to reduce the use of chlorine chemicals and in fruit juice
manufacturing to facilitate juice extraction and clarification. The two active centre
glutamates and the one alpha helix are shown in a green colour.

Figure 3. Cross-linked glucose isomerase crystals. The average crystal size of these crystals is
86 µ m. They can be used in chiral separations and as an immobilized enzyme in a
backed-bed or fluidised bed column. Cross-linking makes the enzyme insoluble but
it retains its activity as water containing porous material.

O NH2 H3O+ NH2
Strecker reacton: HCN NH3 N NH2


R P. putida R R R
O O. antropii O O O
M. neoaurum
rac-1 L-2 D-1 D-2

Scheme 1. Formation of a racemic amino acid amide (1) synthetically by Strecker reaction and
enzymatic resolution of the racemic amide mixture by amidase to form L-amino acid
(L-2) and D-amide (D-1) which can be hydrolysed to D-amino acid (D-2).

HO Aspartase OH PhCH2OCOCl O
3 Z-3

Thermolysin O deprot. O
Z-3 O N O H2N O
rac-4 Z-5 5

Scheme 2. L-aspartic acid (3) is formed from fumaric acid by aspartase which catalyses the
addition of ammonia to fumaric acid. A protective group is added to form Z-aspartic
acic (Z-3) which is combined using a racemic mixture of D/L-phenylalanine methyl
ester (rac-4) by thermolysin to give Z-aspartame (Z-5). By removing the protective
group by catalytic hydrogenation, aspartame (5) is obtained.

Table 1. Change in enzyme characteristics by protein

Enzyme Industry Need

xylanase feed temperature stability

acid activity
pulp and temperature and alkali stability
paper higher pH-optimum

glucoamylase starch higher pH-optimum

glucose isomerase fructose substrate specificity

acid stability
thermo stability

proteinase detergent thermostability

alkali stability
oxidative stability

Table 2. Tools in protein engineering

Target Method

protein structure crystallization

x-ray crystallography

modelling and computational methods


gene plasmids
expression systems
targeted mutagenesis
DNA shuffling
random mutagenesis

Table 3. Large scale enzyme applications

Industry Effect

proteinase protein degradation
lipase fat removal
cellulase color brightening

cellulase microfibril removal
laccase color brightening

Animal feed
xylanase fiber solubility
phytase release of phosphate

amylases glucose formation
glucose isomerase fructose formation

Pulp and paper

xylanase biobleaching

Fruit juice
pectinase juice clarification,
cellulase, juice extraction

xylanase dough conditioning
alpha-amylase loaf volume; shelf-life
glucose oxidase dough quality

rennin protein coagulation
lactase lactose hydrolysis

glucanase filter aid
papain haze control

Table 4. Major enzymatically measured analytes
Analyte Enzyme

alcohol alcohol dehydrogenase

ammonia L-glutamate dehydrogenase
carbon dioxide phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase
cholesterol cholesterol oxidase
glucose glucose oxidase
oxalate oxalate oxidase
urea urease
uric acid uricase