Microbial enzymes and Plant disease

Dr Matsob‚Äčane Tlou - Biocatalysis

Tertiary alcohols are chiral compounds that show versatile biological activity in nature and as a result, have become interesting targets as building blocks for valuable pharmaceutical compounds. The desired biological activity is usually a function of one of the compound's enantiomers, a factor that necessitates the resolution process.

Esterase catalyzed resolution of esters of tertiary alcohols (ETAs) is one approach that has gained a lot of momentum over the years due to the advantages of biocatalysis over the chemical methods. However, this approach is limited by the fact that only a few esterases can accept ETAs as substrates and that most of the enzymes display low to moderate enantioselectivity in the resolution process. These limitations indicate that there is a need to expand the biocatalysis "toolbox" through studies aimed at identifying more ETA hydrolyzing enzymes and engineering enzymes with improved kinetic resolution properties.

Our research group focuses on the sequence based and function-driven approaches to the screening of bacterial genomes for ETA-hydrolase encoding genes and the investigation of the biocatalytic potential of the gene products. The research group also looks at the role of ester-hydrolases (cutinases, lipases etc.) produced by bacterial phytopathogens in phytopathogenesis.


Molecular and physiological characterization of cutinolytic activity from the phytopathogen Pseudomonas pv. syringae maculicola

Co-investigator: Dr LA Piater
MSc student: Genevieve Mezoh


Family VII carboxyl esterase from Bacillus pumilus: Cloning, expression, characterization, and the evaluation of its application in biocatalysis

Co-supervisor: Genevieve Mezoh
Hons student: Msizi I Mhlongo