Light boost for catalysts

Shedding light on enzymes can boost activity by up to thirty times, according to a study from Pratul Agarwal's team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The team introduced a light-activated molecular switch across two regions of the enzyme Candida antarctica lipase B, or CALB. This enzyme catalyzes the break down of lipids. "Using this approach, our preliminary work with CALB suggested that such a technique of introducing a compound that undergoes a light-inducible conformational change onto the surface of the protein could be used to manipulate enzyme reaction," Agarwal explains. This and related enzymes are widely used in industrial biotransformations to make biofuels and other compounds.