Non-Aqueous Biocatalysis in Homogeneous Solvent Systems

Sebastián Torres1 and Guillermo R. Castro1,2*

Planta Piloto de Procesos Industriales Microbiológicos, Tucumán, Argentina

2Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering, Tufts University,
Medford, Massachusetts, USA

Article history:

Received July 16, 2004
Accepted November 22, 2004

Key words:

homogeneous biocatalysis, homogeneous solvent mixtures, enzyme stability, enzyme solvent interactions


Enzymes are highly specific catalysts that typically function in aqueous solvents. However, many enzymes retain their catalytic activities at high concentrations in non-aqueous environments, including neat hydrophilic organic solvents. In fact, enzymes canbe used to carry out reactions in organic solvents that are not possible in aqueous systems. Therefore, biocatalysis in homogenous non-aqueous solvents offers possibilities for producing useful chemicals and several synthetic reactions have already been developed using this type of system. The current review discusses factors that influence enzyme catalysis in non-aqueous solvents such us water content, solvent concentration, interaction of solvent with protein structure, stability and activity. Also, new strategies for non-conventional biocatalysis using extremophiles and ionic solvents are mentioned.

*Corresponding author:
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