Extreme environments as a resource for microorganisms and novel biocatalysts.
The steady increase in the number of newly isolated extremophilic microorganisms and the discovery of their enzymes by academic and industrial institutions underlines the enormous potential of extremophiles for application in future biotechnological processes. Enzymes from extremophilic microorganisms offer versatile tools for sustainable developments in a variety of industrial application as they show important environmental benefits due to their biodegradability, specific stability under extreme conditions, improved use of raw materials and decreased amount of waste products. Although major advances have been made in the last decade, our knowledge of the physiology, metabolism, enzymology and genetics of this fascinating group of extremophilic microorganisms and their related enzymes is still limited. In-depth information on the molecular properties of the enzymes and their genes, however, has to be obtained to analyze the structure and function of proteins that are catalytically active around the boiling and freezing points of water and extremes of pH. New techniques, such as genomics, metanogenomics, DNA evolution and gene shuffling, will lead to the production of enzymes that are highly specific for countless industrial applications. Due to the unusual properties of enzymes from extremophiles, they are expected to optimize already existing processes or even develop new sustainable technologies.