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Back You are here: Inicio Environment Projects Scientists find out a ‘superenzyme’ that reduces pollution associated with paper industry

Scientists find out a ‘superenzyme’ that reduces pollution associated with paper industry

The molecule, developed and patented by the CSIC, reduces the amount of chemicals needed to bleach paper and provides an environmentally friendly alternative.

The patented enzyme reduces the chemicals compounds needed for paper production, providing a more environmentally friendly alternative. Image: PixabayResearchers at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA) of the CSIC have patented an enzyme with application in the paper and wood industry. It is an extremophilic xylanase that reduces the chemicals compounds needed for paper production, providing a more environmentally friendly alternative.

The patented enzyme can work in alkaline media, above pH 10 and with temperatures of 90 degrees Celsius. This result has been obtained within the European project Woodzymes, which counts with research teams and industrial partners from Spain, Portugal, France and Finland. The Center for Biological Research Margarita Salas of the CSIC is the coordinator of the project.

Xylanases are enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of xylan, a polysaccharide that along with cellulose and lignin is one of the main components of the plant cell wall. Removal of xylan is necessary to obtain pure cellulose for manufacturing paper.

The study of extremophilic xylanases has been carried out by the IATA-CSIC Enzyme Structure and Function group, led by Julio Polaina. The finding of the ‘superenzyme’ has been possible through the use of bioinformatics techniques. “We were able to obtain this enzyme after analyzing more than 6,000 sequences annotated in databases, the vast majority of them with unknown function,” explains David Talens-Perales, an IATA researcher participating in the project. "With the described methodology, a xylanase capable of degrading xylan at high temperature and alkaline pH has been cloned. In addition, it has been possible to produce and purify this enzyme in high quantities."

Composting and obtaining prebiotics

The enzymes have also been tested on natural waste such as rice straw, an agricultural by-product for which scientists are searching other uses in order to prevent their burning and to reduce environmental problems. The treatment with xylanases can facilitate the composting of the straw and would allow to obtain xilo-oligosaccharides, sugars with prebiotic activity that have aroused a great interest in the last years because their benefits on intestinal microbiota and health.

Xylanases have other industrial applications, such as forage production, composting, coffee extraction, vegetable oil extraction, starch extraction, juice clarification, etc. Currently, the enzyme is being tested by the RAIZ/Navigator paper industries (Portugal) and the Center Technique du Papier (France), with promising results.

Reference article:

Polaina J., Talens-Perales D., Sánchez-Torres P. Xylanase enzyme with extreme thermostability and alkaline stability. EP20382849 (2020)