Ciba Foundation Symposium 140 - Cyanide Compounds in Biology

Includes the lawsuits of a symposium held on the Ciba origin, March 1988. members current a global, interdisciplinary method of the biology and organic chemistry of cyanide and similar compounds. Addressed are the microbial metabolism of HCN and natural nitrile compounds, cyanogenesis in better vegetation, qualitative and quantitative tools of research of cyanogenic glycosides, and detoxing of hydrogen cyanide through animals.


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Biocatalysts are capable of performing clean synthesis under mild conditions without generating by-products such as the large quantities of inorganic salts associated with many chemical hydrolyses of nitriles. When considering the combined costs of product recovery, production safety and waste water treatment, a process based on biocatalysis may turn out to be preferable, especially if environmental regulations are strengthened. As well as their use in synthesis, nitrile-hydrolysing enzymes may also show great promise as agents for direct detoxification of waste water from existing production processes, or as catalysts for removal of trace quantities of nitriles or amides from the products of chemical syntheses.

Acetonitrile was catabolized in two stages in this organism: conversion to the corresponding amide by a nitrile hydratase and then to the acid plus ammonia by an amidase, as has been observed in all other studies of aliphatic nitriles. The nitrile hydratase of the Brevibacterium R312 has been partially purified and the Michaelis constant ( K , ) for acetonitrile was found to be 25 mM (Arnaud et a1 1977). The enzyme is a general nitrile hydratase, capable of hydrolysing a wide variety of nitriles.

Yamada: Acrylonitrile is a very strong alkylating agent. Therefore, the enzyme S-H is blocked by acrylonitrile. So we prefer to feed it continuously during the reaction at a low temperature. Then we always get only amide. The amidase and hydratase activities are induced together by nitrile and amide in the cells. However, the nitrile substrate inhibits the amidase reaction, because the amidase is more sensitive to substrate inhibition. Knowles: Whether you use aliphatic or aromatic nitriles, it is apparent that the products are released into the growth media at a fairly high concentration.

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