Synthesis using Nature’s catalysts; enzymes

Microorganisms such as bacteria represent the most diverse branch of life being found in every environment on earth capable of supporting life.

Bacteria that can grow in different environments have evolved to utilise and synthesise a broad range of chemicals. The utilisation of bacterial enzymes for synthesis has many advantages over chemical systems (mild conditions, improved selectivity, less waste).

Honours projects in this area involve the isolation and study new enzymes from bacteria of interest or taking existing enzymes and adapting them for chemical synthesis. This includes utilising rational and directed evolution protein engineering techniques (see Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018 to Prof. Frances Arnold).

The crystal structure of the enzymes are also determined which allows the investigation of their properties in more detail and their rational modification.


Project aims

The aim of these projects is to delineate the function of enzymes from bacteria which have related but different amino acid sequences. The goal is to find molecules which bind with a preference for selective activity, or to adapt the enzyme to achieve this, and to determine the products.

A number of different substrate classes will be targeted including terpenoid compounds to generate flavour and fragrance compounds, alkanes and halogenated aromatics for bioremediation.

Alternatively we can also alter the product selectivity by mutating the enzyme or by chemically adding protecting groups to modify the substrate binding orientation.



Tagged in Honours projects - Chemistry, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science, Honours projects - Stephen Bell