Michele R. Harris
A biotransformation reaction is a chemical conversion of a substance into a desired product with the aid of living whole cells containing the necessary enzymes and cofactors needed for the reaction. In additions to living cells, vegetable strips, have been shown to catalyze biotransformation reactions. Advantages of biotransformation reactions include the following: the use of environmentally friendly chemicals, the ability to compost vegetable strips, the use of inexpensive materials that are locally available, and the ability able to produce a single enantiomer. The biotransformation reaction benzofuranyl methyl ketone (BMK) to (-)-benzofuranylethanol (BMA), using carrot strips as the catalyst, has been characterized with respect to various reaction conditions (i.e. ionic strength, pH, temperature, buffer type, mixing methods, enzyme isolation). The reaction is known to produce a single enantiomer of the BMA. Antimicrobial studies, using both BMK and BMA were performed utilizing Baker’s Yeast and bacteria. It was determined that BMA is 17.5% more inhibitory on the growth of bacteria than BMK, while BMA 35.0% more inhibitory in yeast. Studies are currently underway to try to find vegetables that will catalyze the formation of the other enantiomer, (+) benzyfuranylethanol. Once the (+)-isomer of BMA is made, its antimicrobial properties will be studied and compared to the (-) isomer.