Development Of Nitriledegrading Enzymes45

Nitrile hydratase (NHase, EC has become one of the most important industrial enzymes, although it was discovered during the studies on the microbial degradation of polyacrylonitrile. The properties of NHase and its nature to be able to accumulate extraordinarily high concentration of amides in a strikingly fast manner were discovered after a number of planning, experiments and assumptions. Although the details could be reported elsewhere, they are summarized as follows: (i) at first, polyacrylonitrile was a target of microbial degradation and there has been no description of an enzyme hydrating nitrile activity, although such reactions have been well described in organic chemistry; (ii) equivalent transforming thinking was done, searching for degraders of oligomer or monomer rather than polyacrylonitrile degrader; (iii) an acclimation technique to isolate acrylonitrile, one of the most toxic nitriles, degrading microorganisms was used; (iv) purification of nitrile hydratase and its characterization were done for the first time, and a proof of involvement of amidase in nitrile hydrolysis to carboxylic acid was obtained; (v) equivalent transforming thinking was done to search for amide-accumulating microorganism among various nitrile-degrading microorganisms based on the difference in the substrate specificities of nitrile hydratase and amidase, since the only acrylonitrile degrader isolated was proved to have a nitrilase; (vi) discovery of amide-producing microorganisms in high amount, etc.4

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