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Copenhagen Plant Science Center

New laboratory will investigate recently discovered enzymes

The grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation has been awarded for the project Harnessing the Oxidative Power of Enzymes at the Copenhagen Plant Science Center of the University of Copenhagen. The scientists involved in the project will focus on a recently discovered class of enzymes called lytic polysaccharide monoxygenases (LPMOs). These enzymes are important for converting materials such as cellulose that are not easily degraded. With the help of copper, the LPMOs can penetrate the cellulose allowing other enzymes to access the material and release the sugar in the biomass. LPMOs are already used commercially today for converting plant waste to bioethanol.

Nevertheless, LPMOs are likely also responsible for some unwanted effects such  spreading plant diseases. In nature, many different microorganisms produce these enzymes, and data suggest that the microorganisms that cause several plant diseases use a whole arsenal of LPMOs.

More in-depth understanding of the function of LPMOs may have great significance for different fields such as agronomy, pharmacology and biotechnology.

A key element of the project involves establishing the Laboratory of Oxidative Enzymology at the Copenhagen Plant Science Center, which will become a competence centre with special facilities associated to it. These special facilities include equipment to work under oxygen-free conditions and areas equipped for working with organisms that can potentially cause disease.

The project is a partnership between The Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, the Department of Plant- and Environmental Science (Copenhagen Plant Science Center), the Department of Chemistry and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research at the University of Copenhagen and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability at the Technical University of Denmark. Katja S. Johansen from the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management of the University of Copenhagen is the grant recipient.