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Trends Biotechnol. 2007 May;25(5):231-8. Epub 2007 Mar 26.

Enzyme promiscuity: mechanism and applications.

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School of Biotechnology, Department of Biochemistry, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), AlbaNova University Center, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


Introductory courses in biochemistry teach that enzymes are specific for their substrates and the reactions they catalyze. Enzymes diverging from this statement are sometimes called promiscuous. It has been suggested that relaxed substrate and reaction specificities can have an important role in enzyme evolution; however, enzyme promiscuity also has an applied aspect. Enzyme condition promiscuity has, for a long time, been used to run reactions under conditions of low water activity that favor ester synthesis instead of hydrolysis. Together with enzyme substrate promiscuity, it is exploited in numerous synthetic applications, from the laboratory to industrial scale. Furthermore, enzyme catalytic promiscuity, where enzymes catalyze accidental or induced new reactions, has begun to be recognized as a valuable research and synthesis tool. Exploiting enzyme catalytic promiscuity might lead to improvements in existing catalysts and provide novel synthesis pathways that are currently not available.

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