“Development of enzyme nanoparticles that convert methane gas to methanol”
Development of material that is essential for easy production of methanol from methane gas
The work of Professor Lee Jeewon’s research team has been published in Nature Catalysis.
▲ From left: Professor Lee Jeewon (corresponding author), Dr. Kim Hyun-jin (primary author),
Professor Huh June (primary author)
The research team of Professor Lee Jeewon (Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, College of Engineering) has developed enzymatic nanoparticles presenting key active sites of enzymes derived from methane-oxidizing bacteria.
The work of Professor Lee Jeewon’s team was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Research Foundation of Korea (Mid-career Researcher Program of Basic Research in S&E) and was published in “Nature Catalysis,” a prestigious international journal, on April 2, 2019 (Korea time).
- Title: Biological conversion of methane to methanol through genetic reassembly of native catalytic domain
- Authors: Professor Lee Jeewon (corresponding professor, Korea University), Dr. Kim Hyun-jin (primary author, Korea University), Professor Huh June (primary author, Korea University), Kwon Young-wan (Korea University), Park Dong-hyun (Korea University), Yoo Yeon-hwa (Korea University), Jang Young-eun (Korea University), Lee Bo-ram (Korea University), Cho Eun-jee (Korea University), Lee Eun-jeong (Kyungpook National University), Huh Yoon-seok (Yonsei University), Lee Won-tae (Yonsei University)
Methane gas is the most abundant gas resource on earth. Methanol converted from methane gas, can be used in the production of various household goods and industrial materials, replacing crude oil. However, the current chemical oxidation process that produces methanol with methane gas has many technical, economic, and environmental problems including high energy consumption, environmental pollution, and low reaction conversion rate. As an alternative to the chemical process producing methanol, a bioprocess utilizing methane-oxidizing bacteria has been tried. No successful cases, however, have been reported, since high-density cultivation of methane-oxidizing bacteria and mass production of methane-oxidizing enzymes were difficult.
The research team has developed enzymatic nanoparticles that have nearly the same level of activity as a methane-oxidizing enzyme in natural conditions by utilizing only key active sites of the methane-oxidase with genetic engineering technology. The enzyme nanoparticles have a great advantage of mass production by using E. coli which is easily cultivated at a high concentration in a short period of time.
The team has also developed a methanol production system that can stably maintain its activity and be repeatably reused for long periods of time by fixing enzyme nanoparticles to a porous hydrogel. In addition, the team has made a scientific accomplishment that clearly identifies the structure of the active site of the methane-oxidizing enzyme in the form of a membrane protein by using enzyme nanoparticles.
“This research aims to develop methane oxidase in the form of nanoparticles capable of mass production in order to substitute a high-efficiency bioprocess for the trouble-ridden conventional chemical methane oxidation process and the production of a system that can reuse enzyme nanoparticles in a stable and repeatable manner. The extended application of this technology is expected to contribute to the development of various enzymes useful for industrial purposes and the high-efficiency bioprocess using these enzymes.” Professor Lee Jeewon explained the significance of this study.