Bioinspired Method Detoxifies Harmful Chemicals In Single Step

As many industrial and agriculture processes use chemicals; that can be harmful for workers and the ecosystems where they accumulate. Researchers from Thailand have now developing a bioinspiring method to detect and detoxify these chemicals in only one step.

But by an combination of two natural enzymatic reactions convert harmful chloro and nitrophenols into the substance that causes the characteristic glowing of fireflies. But the oxygenating benzene or phenol molecules are part of the chemical structure of many organic substances, from lignin and tar, to pharmaceuticals, dyes, and herbicides. Phenol derived compounds are added to plastics as plasticizers.

Although many of these chemicals are not harmful as such; pesticides, herbicides, or flame retardants may degrade to cancerous and stable nitrophenols; and halogenated phenols that accumulate in the workplace or in fields. Biocatalysis provides powerful and sustainable technology for the conversion of toxicants to less toxic products which, in some cases, may lead to an economical advantage.

Processes use chemicals

Phenolic compounds are usually detected with techniques such as mass spectrometry. They combined an established biodetoxification method with chemical and biochemical conversion schemes to detect and remove contaminants in one step. The key product is witnessing widely on summer nights in gardens and in the countryside: luciferin the bioluminescent compound produced by fireflies. Nature has developed several mechanisms to degrade and detoxify chemicals.

Bacteria use specialized enzymes to dehalogenate phenols and convert them into oxidized compounds called benzoquinones, which can be metabolized by organisms. Enzymes called dehalogenases or mono-oxygenases have thus been using in industry for biological detoxification. By developing the chemoenzymatic cascade offers additional value; it provides biodetection technology for nitrophenols and halogenated phenols.

The chemoenzymatic cascade

The chemoenzymatic cascade entails conversion of the product from the first enzymatic conversion step, benzoquinone, into luciferin in a second step, but within the same reaction vessel. To achieve conversion of benzoquinone into luciferin, the authors added the natural compound cysteine to the reaction mixture. They then included a third step in the reaction sequence; and detected the luciferin product through the glowing reaction causing by an enzyme called luciferase; which is also present in fireflies.

The authors also proved that their detoxification-luciferin production; and detection scheme was robust and capable of quantitative conversion of hazardous phenols into luciferin. But as the nitro and halogenated phenols are the key indicators of human overexposure to pesticides and the pesticide contamination; the technology providing a sensitive and the convenient tool for improving bio-medical; and the environmental detection at ppb sensitivity in biological samples without the requirement for any pre-treatment.