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:

    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

    Enzymatic synthesis of kraft lignin-acrylate copolymers using an alkaline tolerant laccase

    Maryam Arefmanesh, Thu V. Vuong, Saeid Nikafshar, Henrik Wallmo, Mojgan Nejad, Emma R. Master 2022 Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

    From acetone fractionation to lignin-based phenolic and polyurethane resins

    Maryam Arefmanesh, Saeid Nikafshar, Emma R. Master, Mojgan Nejad 2022 Industrial Crops and Products

    Microbial Expansin Related Proteins for Improved Enzymatic Action for Conversion of Lignocellulose to Platform Sugars

    Deepika Dahiya, Kim Kutvonen, Amy Yan Wang, Siiri de Ruijter, Emma Master 2022

    PACER: a novel 3D plant cell wall model for the analysis of non-catalytic and enzymatic responses

    Mareike Monschein, Edita Jurak, Tanja Paasela, Taru Koitto, Vera Lambauer, Mirko Pavicic, Thomas Enjalbert, Claire Dumon, Emma R. Master 2022 Biotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts

    Elucidating Sequence and Structural Determinants of Carbohydrate Esterases for Complete Deacetylation of Substituted Xylans

    Leena Penttinen, Vera Kouhi, Régis Fauré, Tatiana Skarina, Peter Stogios, Emma Master, Edita Jurak 2022 Molecules

    Enzymatic upgrading of heteroxylans for added-value chemicals and polymers

    Thu V. Vuong, Emma R. Master 2022 CURRENT OPINION IN BIOTECHNOLOGY

    Characterization of a novel AA3_1 xylooligosaccharide dehydrogenase from Thermothelomyces myriococcoides CBS 398.93

    Hongbo Zhao, Johanna Karppi, Thi Truc Minh Nguyen, Annie Bellemare, Adrian Tsang, Emma Master, Maija Tenkanen 2022 Biotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts

    Discovery of fungal oligosaccharide-oxidising flavo-enzymes with previously unknown substrates, redox-activity profiles and interplay with LPMOs

    Majid Haddad Momeni, Folmer Fredslund, Bastien Bissaro, Olanrewaju Raji, Thu V. Vuong, Sebastian Meier, Tine Sofie Nielsen, Vincent Lombard, Bruno Guigliarelli, Frédéric Biaso, Mireille Haon, Sacha Grisel, Bernard Henrissat, Ditte Hededam Welner, Emma R. Master, Jean Guy Berrin, Maher Abou Hachem 2021 Nature Communications

    Polysaccharide utilization loci-driven enzyme discovery reveals BD-FAE

    Lisanne Hameleers, Leena Penttinen, Martina Ikonen, Léa Jaillot, Régis Fauré, Nicolas Terrapon, Peter J. Deuss, Nina Hakulinen, Emma R. Master, Edita Jurak 2021 Biotechnology for Biofuels
    More information on our research in the Research database.
    Research database
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