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CSIC files patent for superenzyme as it helps to decrease pollution derived from pulp and paper industry

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CSIC files patent for superenzyme as it helps to decrease pollution derived from pulp and paper industry

March 11, 2021 - 08:33
Posted in:
    MADRID and VALENCIA, Spain , Dec. 21, 2020 (Press Release) -
  • This extremophile xylanase is able to work in alkaline conditions, above pH 10, and a temperature of 90ᵒ centigrade
  • The molecule is able to reduce the amount of chemicals needed for paper pulp bleaching offering a more environmentally friendly alternative

Researchers of the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA), belonging to the Spanish Research Council (CSIC), have patented an enzyme with application in the wood and paper industry. It is an extremophilic xylanase that reduces the use of chemicals during paper production, offering a more environmentally friendly alternative.

The patented enzyme is able to work in alkaline media, over pH 10, with a temperature of 90ᵒ centigrade. This result has been obtained in the frame of the European Project WoodZymes ( coordinated from the Biological Research Center of CSIC, with participation of research groups and industrial partners from Spain, Portugal, France and Finland.

Xylanases are enzymes (protein molecules performing chemical reactions in living organisms) that catalyze the hydrolysis of xylan polysaccharide, one of the main components of the plant cell wall together with cellulose and lignin. Xylan removal is necessary in order to obtain pure cellulose, which is required for paper making.

The investigation on extremophilic xylanases has been carried out by the Laboratory of Enzyme Structure and Function at IATA-CSIC, led by Dr. Julio Polaina. The discovery of the “superenzyme” was possible through the use of bioinformatic techniques. “We were able to find this enzyme after analyzing more than 6000 sequences annotated in databases, the majority of them of unknown function”, explains David Talens-Perales, researcher at IATA and project participant. “Using the described methodology, we could clone a xylanase able to break down xylan at elevated temperature and alkaline pH. Moreover, we achieved production and purification at high levels”.

Composting and prebiotic production

In addition to the use of model substrates at the laboratory for enzyme testing, these were also evaluated on natural residues such as rice straw, an agricultural byproduct usually burnt for which new conversion routes are being investigated in order to reduce environmental problems. Treatment with xylanases could facilitate straw composting allowing the isolation of oligosaccharides, a type of sugars showing prebiotic properties which have gained great interest in recent years due to their beneficial effect on gut microbiota and health.

Xylanases have other industrial applications, such as forage production, composting, coffee extraction, plant oil extraction, starch extraction, juice clarification, etc. At the present time, the enzyme is being tested by the pulp and paper industries RAIZ/The Navigator Company in Portugal and the Centre Technique du Papier (France), with promising results.

WoodZymes project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 792070. The JU receives support from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the Bio Based Industries Consortium. This article reflects only the author's view and the JU is not responsible for any use of the information it contains.