Acidophilic bacteria and archaea: acid stable biocatalysts and their potential applications
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- Sharma, A., Kawarabayasi, Y. & Satyanarayana, T. Extremophiles (2012) 16: 1. doi:10.1007/s00792-011-0402-3
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Acidophiles are ecologically and economically important group of microorganisms, which thrive in acidic natural (solfataric fields, sulfuric pools) as well as artificial man-made (areas associated with human activities such as mining of coal and metal ores) environments. They possess networked cellular adaptations to regulate pH inside the cell. Several extracellular enzymes from acidophiles are known to be functional at much lower pH than the cytoplasmic pH. Enzymes like amylases, proteases, ligases, cellulases, xylanases, α-glucosidases, endoglucanases, and esterases stable at low pH are known from various acidophilic microbes. The possibility of improving them by genetic engineering and directed evolution will further boost their industrial applications. Besides biocatalysts, other biomolecules such as plasmids, rusticynin, and maltose-binding protein have also been reported from acidophiles. Some strategies for circumventing the problems encountered in expressing genes encoding proteins from extreme acidophiles have been suggested. The investigations on the analysis of crystal structures of some acidophilic proteins have thrown light on their acid stability. Attempts are being made to use thermoacidophilic microbes for biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass. The enzymes from acidophiles are mainly used in polymer degradation.