Enzymes in Lipid Modification

U.T. Bornscheuer (Ed.) / DGF (Deutsche Gesellschaft f. Fettwissenschaften) (Wiley-VCH, 2000)


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Industrial-age society has been --  or at least is being --  transformed into an information-age society. The plethora of information now available down to molecular ‘genomic‘ levels still continues to grow. With justification those working in such areas feel part of a biosociety; and professional organizations have responded accordingly.  For instance, in the 1970s our own Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fettwissenschaft (DGF) created a Division of Biochemistry and Biotechnology which for some time now has been co-chaired by Uwe Bornscheuer.
Uwe Bornscheuer is an authoritative colleague in the field of enzyme technology.  Together with Romas Kaslauskas he wrote a highly acclaimed book on Hydrolases in Organic Synthesis published by Wiley-VCH. The present book "Enzymes in Lipid Modification" is also a publication by Wiley-VCH, and I am pleased that this renowned publishing house is becoming increasingly engaged in lipids, fats and oils. By launching the new monthly European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology in January 2000, indeed, DGF and Wiley-VCH are already a successful collaboration.
Scientific interest in enzymes acting on lipids has a long history.  The first focus was on lipases.  Then phospholipases came to the fore, and lately lipoxygenases and monooxygenases have garnered attention. I wish to thank Uwe Bornscheuer for gathering acknowledged experts to write succinct chapters pertaining to these groups of enzymes. Their informative and critical reviews discuss how to use and improve properties of proteins such as reversability, chirality and stability in the synthesis of products. The aim and scope of the book is thus truly biotechnological. DGF happily cooperates in this endeavor!
Fritz Spener
President of DGF
Münster, April 2000

In the last two decades, our understanding of biocatalysts has increased considerably, as have the number of applications of biocatalysts for synthesis.  The success of biocatalysts stems from better availability of enzymes - mainly due to the vast progress in genetic engineering -, advances in bioreaction engineering, increasing demands for environmentally-friendly processes, which makes a biocatalytic route more attractive and often more cost-effective than a chemical one.
Most of the approximately 90 million metric tonnes of fats and oils produced worldwide are used in human nutrition. However, not all fats and oils obtained from animals or plants are necessarily ideal for the human diet, e.g. high contents of saturated fatty acids can cause cardiovascular diseases. Beside physico-chemical modifications and the introduction of genetically engineered plants producing ‚designer-oils‘, biocatalysts offer an alternative way to convert lipids into suitable edible products as well as their conversion into ‚basic-chemicals‘ useful for, e.g. synthesis of detergents or emulsifiers.
From all enzymes available in nature, hydrolases are probably most easy-to-use, because they do not require cofactors and are usually rather stable under process conditions. This holds especially true for lipases and phospholipases. A large number of lipases are commercially available and several industrial processes use lipases. As lipids are the natural substrates of lipases, it is not surprising that most chapters in this book review their application in lipid modification, such as hydrolysis to produce free fatty acids, synthesis of partial glycerides, enrichment/isolation of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are important for the human diet. Also covered are their cloning, expression and mutagenesis of lipases as well as attempts to understand the molecular basis for their specificity and stereoselectivity. In addition engineering aspects and the choice of suitable solvent system are addressed.
Availability and applications of phospholipases are still less developed compared to lipases.  The three chapters in this book allow the conclusion, that in the near future drawbacks like limited substrate range, stability under process conditions and difficult expression in suitable hosts will be overcome.
Other enzymes frequently studied in lipid modification are lipoxygenases and P450-monooxygenases, which are reviewed in the remaining chapters. They are very  attractive for organic synthesis, because they allow functionalization of fatty acids to generate, e.g., fine chemicals, flavors and emulsifiers such as sophoroselipids.
I am convinced that this book - reflecting the state-of-the-art of enzymatic lipid modification written by leading experts in their field - will provide the reader with guidelines how to select suitable enzymes and how to apply them efficiently.
Finally, I would to express my thanks to all contributors to this book. The untiring support and patience of Ms. Karen Dembowsky and her staff at Wiley-VCH is gratefully acknowledged.
Uwe Bornscheuer, Greifswald, April 2000

What others think about this book:
Frank D. Gunstone, Lipid Technology:(pdf)
Kerstin Riedel, ChemBioChem: (pdf)
Lothar Jaenicke, BIOspektrum: (pdf)


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In 2016, Uwe Bornscheuer has published News & Views articles in "Nature" and in "Nature Chem. Biol.", a "Perspectives" contribution in the journal "Science" and aresearch article in the journal "Nature Chem."

Johannes Kabisch (junior research group leader) has accepted a position as Junior-Professor at the TU-Darmstadt and Robert Kourist is now full Professor at the TU-Graz, congratulations!

Daniel Last (#51) has finished his PhD!

Uwe Bornscheuer has published his 25th contribution (an Editorial) in the top chemistry journal "Angew. Chem. Int. Ed."

Uwe Bornscheuer has received the "Stephen S. Chang Award" of the Am. Oil. Chem. Soc. (AOCS).

Our paper on the discovery of (R)-selective amine transaminases has been highlighted as "Best Design Concept" by Nat. Chem. Biol.

Author profile:

An author profile about Uwe Bornscheuer has been published in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.

Prof. Dr. Uwe Bornscheuer
Institute of Biochemistry
Dept. of Biotechnology & Enzyme Catalysis
Felix-Hausdorff-Str. 4
D-17487 Greifswald/ Germany

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