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:

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

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


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

The coordinated action of glucuronoyl esterase and α-glucuronidase promotes the disassembly of lignin–carbohydrate complexes

Olanrewaju Raji, Jenny Arnling Bååth, Thu V. Vuong, Johan Larsbrink, Lisbeth Olsson, Emma R. Master 2021 FEBS Letters

Structural characterization of the family GH115 α-glucuronidase from Amphibacillus xylanus yields insight into its coordinated action with α-arabinofuranosidases

Ruoyu Yan, Weijun Wang, Thu V. Vuong, Yang Xiu, Tatiana Skarina, Rosa Di Leo, Paul Gatenholm, Guillermo Toriz, Maija Tenkanen, Peter J. Stogios, Emma R. Master 2021 NEW BIOTECHNOLOGY
More information on our research in the Research database.
Research database
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