Enzymatic degradation of biopolymers
Filamentous fungi (moulds) can grow on a wide range of organic compounds and have therefore a versatile enzymatic machinery to degrade biopolymers. In the project group of Dr. Verena Seidl-Seiboth various aspects of the enzymatic degradation of biopolymers by glycoside hydrolases are investigated. The two most abundant homogenous polysaccharides on earth are cellulose and chitin and they can be biotechnologically processed with enzymes for numerous applications, ranging from biofuels to medical purposes.
In current research projects we focus on the diversity of fungal chitin-degrading enzymes and chitin-binding proteins involved in biopolymer degradation. Regulation of the respective genes by environmental stimuli is studied in order to elucidate under which growth conditions different groups of enzymes can be produced. Further, we are interested in how fungi protect their own hyphae against their enzymes.
In contrast to many other carbohydrate-active enzymes that are solely involved in substrate degradation for nutritional purposes, chitin-degrading enzymes are also important for cell wall degradation in fungi. For a rational design-based development of chitinases for biotechnological applications, an integrated understanding of the different roles of chitinases in fungal biology and thus their natural substrates will be necessary.