New chitinases for the industrial biotechnology
In today's daylife many petroleum-based materials ensure our living standard. As crude oil resources are running short, we have to identify renewable raw-materials in order to create alternatives for production of materials equivalent to the nowadays commonly use of petroleum based materials to keep our living standards. Chitin, the second most abundant biopolymer after cellulose, could be such an alternative. It is found for example in crustaceans' and insects' carapace. Being a major component in the shellfishwaste it is cheap and easily accessible for production processes. Built of N-acetylglucosamine (NAG) monomers Chitin in contrast to glucose provides a naturally occurring resource for molecules containing nitrogen, which may be used for the production of high-value building blocks such as pyrrols. In our research we aim on the development of biotechnological processes to convert chitin to its monomer NAG. Therefore we search for new powerful Chitin-degrading microorganisms and enzymes (Chitinases EC 126.96.36.199) including their encoding DNA-sequence. Using enrichment cultures and metagenomic libraries we could identify 2 new chitinolytic organisms and new enzymes. The comparison of the DNAsequence of one of the enzymes identified revealed a new chitinase with low similarity to known ones. The production process of NAG is developed as a two-step-process were in the first step chitinases are produced by the microorganisms on basis of either glucose or chitin and in the second step after separation of the enzyme-producing cells crab-shells or other chitin containing substrates are enzymatically degraded to the monomer NAG. We aim at a process in which no waste products as acid or lime will have to be handled. NAG then could be used as a basic chemical for further conversion e.g. to pyrrole or furan derivates.