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Naturwissenschaften. 2002 Jan;89(1):11-22.

Occurrence, functions and biosynthesis of polyamides in microorganisms and biotechnological production.

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Institut für Mikrobiologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany.


Microorganisms are able to synthesize three different polyamides by enzymatic processes independently from ribosomal protein biosynthesis: poly(gamma-D-glutamic acid), poly(epsilon-L-lysine) and multi-L-arginyl-poly(L-aspartic acid) which is also referred to as cyanophycin. These polyamides, which occur mainly in Bacillus spp. (and only a few other eubacteria and the nematocysts of Cnidaria, in Streptomyces albulus or in cyanobacteria, respectively), have recently attracted considerable interest of the chemical industry and may be suitable for various applications. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the occurrence, biosynthesis, physiological functions, and biodegradation as well as on the properties and putative applications of these polyamides. Emphasis is placed on the enzymology of the polymerization and on the genes encoding the polymerizing enzymes, which have only recently become available for cyanophycin synthetases. Prospects for novel production processes. in particular for cyanophycin, are also presented.

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