Characterisation of nitrilase and nitrile hydratase biocatalytic systems
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Brady, D., Beeton, A., Zeevaart, J. et al. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2004) 64: 76. doi:10.1007/s00253-003-1495-0
Biocatalytic transformations converting aromatic and arylaliphatic nitriles into the analogous related amide or acid were investigated. These studies included synthesis of the β-substituted nitrile 3-hydroxy-3-phenylpropionitrile, subsequent enrichment and isolation on this substrate of nitrile-degrading microorganisms from the environment, and a comparative study of enzymatic reactions of nitriles by resting cell cultures and enzymes. Each biocatalyst exhibited a distinctive substrate selectivity profile, generally related to the length of the aliphatic chain of the arylaliphatic nitrile and the position of substituents on the aromatic ring or aliphatic chain. Cell-free nitrilases generally exhibited a narrower substrate range than resting whole cells of Rhodococcus strains. The Rhodococcus strains all exhibited nitrile hydratase activity and converted β-hydroxy nitriles (but did not demonstrate enantioselectivity on this substrate). The biocatalysts also mediated the synthesis of a range of α-hydroxy carboxylic acids or amides from aldehydes in the presence of cyanide. The use of an amidase inhibitor permits halting the nitrile hydratase/amidase reaction at the amide intermediate.