10.2.3 Chemicals, Enzymes and other Bioactive Molecules

Microbes are also used for commercial and industrial production of certain chemicals like organic acids, alcohols and enzymes. Examples of acid producers are Aspergillus niger (a fungus) of citric acid, Acetobacter aceti (a bacterium) of acetic acid; Clostridium butylicum (a bacterium) of butyric acid and Lactobacillus (a bacterium) of lactic acid.

Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is used for commercial production of ethanol. Microbes are also used for production of enzymes. Lipases are used in detergent formulations and are helpful in removing oily stains from the laundry.

You must have noticed that bottled fruit juices bought from the market are clearer as compared to those made at home. This is because the bottled juices are clarified by the use of pectinases and proteases. Streptokinase produced by the bacterium Streptococcus and modified by genetic engineering is used as a ‘clot buster’ for removing clots from the blood vessels of patients who have undergone myocardial infraction leading to heart attack.

Another bioactive molecule, cyclosporin A, that is used as an immunosuppressive agent in organ-transplant patients, is produced by the fungus Trichoderma polysporum. Statins produced by the yeast Monascus purpureus have been commercialised as blood-cholesterol lowering agents. It acts by competitively inhibiting the enzyme responsible for synthesis of cholesterol.

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