Cold-adapted enzymes

90 % of the water of the oceans is colder than 5°C. Thus, the majority of marine organisms is cold-adapted. The adaptation of marine microorganisms to extreme environmental conditions like low temperature, high pressure or nutrient limitation has evolved unique enzyme structures and activities. Enzymes from cold-adapted (psychrophilic) organisms are characterized by a high catalytic activity at very low temperatures, e.g. 4°C. This feature of cold-adapted enzymes is determined by their flexible protein structure.
From the biotechnological point of view many cold-adapted enzymes could in the future replace mesophilic counterparts or could help to establish even new bioprocesses under low temperature conditions, because these enzymes:

  1. can help to save energy (e.g. in washing processes, food processing or bioremediation)
  2. save labile or volatile compounds (e.g. in biotransformations or food-processing)
  3. prevent the growth of mesophilic contaminants at low temperature (e.g. food processing)
  4. could be easily inactivated by moderate temperatures (e.g. molecular biological applications or food processing)



U. LINDEQUIST and T. SCHWEDER. 2001. Marine Biotechnology. In: Biotechnology, H.J. Rehm and G. Reed eds., VCH. Vol. 11.

L. V. TRUONG, H. TUYEN, E. HELMKE, L. T. BINH and T. SCHWEDER. 2001. Cloning and characterization of two cold-adapted pectate lyases from the marine Antarctic bacterium Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis strain ANT/505. Extremophiles. 5(1): 35-44

A. BENDT, H. HÜLLER, U. KAMMEL, E. HELMKE and T. SCHWEDER. 2001. Cloning, expression and characterization of a chitinase gene from the Antarctic psychrotolerant bacterium Vibrio sp. Strain Fi:7. Extremophiles. 5(2): 119-126

M. BORRISS, E. HELMKE, R. HANSCHKE and T. SCHWEDER. 2003. Isolation and characterization of marine psychrophilic phage-host-systems. Extremophiles.



Elisabeth Helmke, Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Bremerhaven, Germany (
Georges Feller, Laboratoire de Biochimie, Université de Liège, Belgium



How Microbes Beat the Cold:
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