Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems

Protein Technology

Professor Emma Master leads the Protein Technology research group. Our aim is to create breakthrough biotechnologies that customize nature’s most abundant structural biopolymers for use as building blocks in high-performance materials.
CHEM/BIO2/Protein technology group_enzyme research

Our approach applies functional genomics and biophysical methods to develop unique carbohydrate-active enzymes and non-catalytic proteins that control the chemical functionality and assembly of major lignocellulose components.

Research areas:

  1. Biocatalysts to upgrade renewable bioresources
  2. Protein Engineering
  3. Carbohydrate-active enzymes

By using biotechnologies to upgrade biopolymers for multipurpose and sustainable materials, we will:

  1. leverage environmental and economic benefits that are achieved when retaining naturally fixed CO2 in new bio-based products;
  2. establish biocatalysts as instruments for bio-based materials engineering;
  3. realize intact, structural biopolymers as the superior progenitor of high-performance materials.

Examples of ongoing research projects:

  • Carbohydrate-active oxidoreductases for bio-based cross linkers
  • Biocatalytic cascades for hemicellulose reassembly
  • Microbial expansin related proteins for bio-fibre engineering

Research aims to find tools for sustainable utilization of renewable plant resources

Forest biomass (lignocellulose) is largely made up of three polymers, cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. Today, cellulose fibers are the main product of pulp mills across Finland and globally, while over 50% of the wood biomass resource remains underutilized. Our research focuses on the discovery and development of new proteins that can be used to sustainably synthesize novel, high-value biomaterials from underutilized and renewable plant resources.

Enzymes are tools with advantages

Enzyme catalyzed reactions benefit from four key advantages.

  1. Specificity that allows predictable modification of complex substrates.
  2. Exquisite tunability through protein discovery and engineering.
  3. Operation in mild reaction conditions that can reduce energy costs and undesired transformation of starting materials.
  4. Biodegradability, which helps to ensure the sustainability of the synthesis process as well as end product.

The Protein Technology group mines unexplored genomic data from plant biomass degrading microorganisms to discover new enzymes and non-catalytic proteins able to create valuable, bio-based products from plant polysaccharides. To support this objective, our group also designs and develops new enzyme screens to address the increasing limitations of existing assays.

Our research through images:

    CHEM/BIO/Protein technology group_enzyme research 1

    Enzyme research

    CHEM/BIO/Protein technology group_enzyme research 2

    Enzyme research

    CHEM/BIO/Protein technology group_enzyme research overview

    Enzyme research overview

    CHEM/BIO/Protein technology group_bioinformatics research

    Bioinformatics research

    CHEM/BIO/Protein technology group_bioinformatics research

    Bioinformatics research

    CHEM/BIO2/Protein technology group_Time of Flight Secondary Mass Spectrometry

    Time of Flight Secondary Mass Spectrometry (ToF SIMS) to image plant fiber after enzyme treatment

    CHEM/Bio2/Protein technology group_plant fiber after enzyme treatment

    Scanning Transmission X-ray Microscopy (STXM) to image plant fiber after enzyme treatment

    Protein technology group picture

    Related content:

    BioUPGRADE (external link)

    BioUPGRADE unites expertise in functional genomics and material science to deliver breakthrough biotechnologies that sustainably upgrade nature’s main structural biopolymers into high-value and multipurpose materials.

    BioUPGRADE project photo

    Emma Master has received an ERC Consolidator Grant

    The project aims to accelerate benefits of the genomic era, by finding novel proteins and enzymes with totally new and useful properties.

    Portrait picture of Adjunct Professor Emma Master, Aalto University

    Latest publications:

    Fungal loosenin-like proteins boost the cellulolytic enzyme conversion of pretreated wood fiber and cellulosic pulps

    Deepika Dahiya, Taru Koitto, Kim Kutvonen, Yan Wang, Majid Haddad Momeni, Siiri de Ruijter, Emma R. Master 2024 Bioresource Technology

    Biocatalytic cascade to polysaccharide amination

    Xuebin Feng, Siyi Hong, Hongbo Zhao, Thu V. Vuong, Emma R. Master 2024 Biotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts

    Insights into the action of phylogenetically diverse microbial expansins on the structure of cellulose microfibrils

    Majid Haddad Momeni, Aleksi Zitting, Vilma Jäämuru, Rosaliina Turunen, Paavo Penttilä, Garry W. Buchko, Salla Hiltunen, Natalia Maiorova, Anu Koivula, Janak Sapkota, Kaisa Marjamaa, Emma R. Master 2024 Biotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts

    Comparative assessment of chemical and biochemical approaches for the activation of lignocellulosic materials and emerging opportunities for expansin-related proteins

    Salla Hiltunen, Janak Sapkota, Eleni Ioannou, Majid Haddad Momeni, Emma Master, Matti Ristolainen 2024 Cellulose

    Functional screening pipeline to uncover laccase-like multicopper oxidase enzymes that transform industrial lignins

    Anupama A. Sharan, Annie Bellemare, Marcos DiFalco, Adrian Tsang, Thu V. Vuong, Elizabeth A. Edwards, Emma R. Master 2024 Bioresource Technology

    Substrate specificity mapping of fungal CAZy AA3_2 oxidoreductases

    Hongbo Zhao, Johanna Karppi, Owen Mototsune, Daria Poshina, Jenny Svartström, Thi Truc Minh Nguyen, Tri Minh Vo, Adrian Tsang, Emma Master, Maija Tenkanen 2024 Biotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts

    Impact of fungal loosenins on lignocellulosic and chitinous materials

    D. Dahiya, Z. Peter-Szabo, M. Mudiyanselage, V. Pingali, W. Leite, F. Vilaplana, H. O'Neill, E. Master 2023

    Functional characterization of fungal lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases for cellulose surface oxidation

    Yann Mathieu, Olanrewaju Raji, Annie Bellemare, Marcos Di Falco, Thi Truc Minh Nguyen, Alexander Holm Viborg, Adrian Tsang, Emma Master, Harry Brumer 2023 Biotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts

    Loosenin-Like Proteins from Phanerochaete carnosa Impact Both Cellulose and Chitin Fiber Networks

    Mareike Monschein, Eleni Ioannou, Taru Koitto, Leamon A. K. M. AI Amin, Jutta J. Varis, Edward R. Wagner, Kirsi S. Mikkonen, Daniel J. Cosgrove, Emma R. Master 2023 Applied and Environmental Microbiology
    More information on our research in the Aalto research portal.
    Research portal
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