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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Potential and utilization of thermophiles and thermostable enzymes in biorefining

Pernilla Turner, Gashaw Mamo and Eva Nordberg Karlsson*

Author Affiliations

Dept Biotechnology, Center for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Lund University, P.O. Box 124, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden

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Microbial Cell Factories 2007, 6:9  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-6-9

Published: 15 March 2007

Abstract

In today's world, there is an increasing trend towards the use of renewable, cheap and readily available biomass in the production of a wide variety of fine and bulk chemicals in different biorefineries. Biorefineries utilize the activities of microbial cells and their enzymes to convert biomass into target products. Many of these processes require enzymes which are operationally stable at high temperature thus allowing e.g. easy mixing, better substrate solubility, high mass transfer rate, and lowered risk of contamination. Thermophiles have often been proposed as sources of industrially relevant thermostable enzymes. Here we discuss existing and potential applications of thermophiles and thermostable enzymes with focus on conversion of carbohydrate containing raw materials. Their importance in biorefineries is explained using examples of lignocellulose and starch conversions to desired products. Strategies that enhance thermostablity of enzymes both in vivo and in vitro are also assessed. Moreover, this review deals with efforts made on developing vectors for expressing recombinant enzymes in thermophilic hosts.