Integrative analysis of extremophiles in search for new biotechnological solutions

Project facts

Project promoter
The Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of Seville (IRNAS)
Project Number:
Target groups
Researchers or scientists
Initial project cost:
Final project cost:
From EEA Grants:
€ 3,311
The project is carried out in:

More information


A sustainable bioindustrial economy requires replacing chemical processes by green, renewable bio-based alternatives. Microorganisms represent the best potential target for biotechnology. The objective of the project is to join multidisciplinary views to generate biotechnological solutions and advancement into the hydrolysis of cellular materials and residues. The integral approach presented in this project proposes a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches to model design and discover novel biocatalysts. The project is expected to reveal novel microorganisms, enzymes or processes that can contribute towards replacing chemical treatment and processes with environmental-friendly and more efficient biological catalysts benefiting to the research community. The donor partner, BIO at the University of Bergen, has a long experience undertaking research across a broad range of disciplines, developmental biology, microbiology, evolutionary biology, ecology and biodiversity. The donor partner experience will contribute to the successful research.

Summary of project results

The project is based on the actual need to better understand biological processes potentiating their application through biotechnology. Extremophyles are organisms adapted to extreme conditions and so these microorganisms are well suited to be used as typical targets to search for novel applicable alternatives improving efficiency and reducing costs. The aim of the project is to join multidisciplinary views, including microbiologists, biochemists, and mathematicians to advance in this field. Most of the work during the NILS funding has focused to understand the protein structure in relationship to protein stability as a way to study the modularity of proteins and the relevance of interactions within three-dimensional distribution of amino acids in proteins. The plan was to apply mathematical concepts to biology so that we can understand interactions between cells and molecules and so use this knowledge in biology. Partners have analysed the potential interactions between the amino acids in proteins so that these proteins can be modified (improved) to reach higher standards and efficiencies. In this line of research partners worked on transforming protein structure into matrices of data that can be handled by mathematical procedures and analysed accordingly through graphic theory protocols. In this way, partners expect to be able to detect specific sites or molecules that allow catalytic improvements such as increased activity, reduced size, or enhance substrate promiscuity of enzymes. The analysis performed are leading to innovative trends. One of them is the possibility to define modules as portions of proteins. The great potential of these modules is that it opens the door to novel protein engineering methods which may lead towards the option of dividing a known protein in its corresponding modules and then build novel engineered proteins based on different modules from related proteins and even constructing a completely novel protein based on joining modules from different proteins. Another mayor output of the project was envisioning the potential for deciphering protein thermostability as a result of clustering amino acidic interactions within proteins. Nevertheless partners declare there is much work to do before reaching some meaningful conclusions to pursue the research on this topic. Results of the project have been presented in workshops and seminars, and at least three scientific papers have been produced.

Summary of bilateral results

The NILS project represents the starting point for interactions between the partner institutions and investigators joining common efforts into leading and novel initiatives aiming to improve our knowledge of biological processes and the sustainable application in biotechnology for these new developments. Interaction between the principal investigators has been initiated thanks to this project and is opening a very broad perspective for future collaboration in research and its application. As a result of this cooperation, partners continue their joint research. The promoter CSIC submitted a project to the call Explora of the Spanish Ministry of Science and technology in October 2015, which is directed to high-risk, highly innovative ideas, together with the University of Bergen and University of Sevilla. In 2016, partners submitted a project to the call ERA-Ib2 focusing on the potential of thermophilic isomerases for biotechnological purposes including a potential to modify these enzymes to achieve higher efficiencies and above all novel specificities towards rare substrates. The project includes researchers from both partners as well as from other countries.