The use of enzymes and cell-based systems is an excellent alternative to traditional chemical processes, since it can be environmentally cleaner, faster and more cost-effective. Termites are considered an excellent biological system for studying biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic biomass, because not only carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes), such as cellulases, are found in the gut (both symbiotic and endogenous enzymes), but also a set of pro-oxidant, antioxidant and detoxification enzymes (PADs) were observed in the digestome. Among the PADs, our research group discovered an aldo-keto reductase (CgAKR-1) that devoted special attention, especially because it reduces several phenolic aldehydes to their respective alcohols. In addition, our collaborators, professor Neil Dixon and Nick Turner (University of Manchester) have been studying a carboxylic acid reductase (CAR) from Mycobacterium marinum, that showed reducing activity against aromatic acids found in biomass. In this sense, this BEPE project is devoted to combine our efforts and develop a synthetic route using CAR and CgAKR-1 for ferulic acid transformation into coniferyl alcohol, a highly valuable precursor of several chemical compounds. Moreover, we expect to conduct protein engineering, based on biosensors screening, to optimize the CAR and CgAKR-1 system aiming maximum coniferyl alcohol production from lignocellulosic material. The present project builds upon an existing Thematic BBSRC/FAPESP awarded by Dr. Fabio Squina, together with Dr. Tim Bugg and Dr. Neil Dixon.
Articles published in Pesquisa para Inovação FAPESP about the scholarships: