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Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2011 Jul;39(4):280-90. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20488.

Characterization of the protease activity of detergents: laboratory practicals for studying the protease profile and activity of various commercial detergents.

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  • 1Nutrigenomics Group, Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Rovira i Virgili University, Tarragona 43007, Spain.


Detergent enzymes account for about 30% of the total worldwide production of enzymes and are one of the largest and most successful applications of modern industrial biotechnology. Proteases can improve the wash performance of household, industrial, and institutional laundry detergents used to remove protein-based stains such as blood, grass, body fluids, and food soils. This article describes two easy and cheap laboratory exercises to study the presence, profile, and basic enzymology of detergent proteases. These laboratory practicals are based on the determination of the detergent protease activity of various commercial detergents using the N-succinyl-L-alanyl-L-alanyl-L-prolyl-L-phenylalanine p-nitroanilide method and the bovine serum albumin degradation capacity. Students are also required to elucidate the enzymatic subtype of detergent proteases by studying the inhibitory potential of several types of protease inhibitors revealed by the same experimental methodology. Additionally, the results of the exercises can be used to provide additional insights on elementary enzymology by studying the influence of several important parameters on protease activity such as temperature (in this article) and the influence of pH and effects of surfactants and oxidizers (proposed). Students also develop laboratory skills, problem-solving capacities, and the ability to write a laboratory report. The exercises are mainly designed for an advanced undergraduate project in the biochemistry and biotechnology sciences. Globally, these laboratory practicals show students the biotechnological applications of proteases in the detergent industry and also reinforce important enzymology concepts.

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