Towards efficient chemical synthesis via engineering enzyme catalysis in biomimetic nanoreactors
Biocatalysis with immobilized enzymes as catalysts holds enormous promise in developing more efficient and sustainable processes for the synthesis of fine chemicals, chiral pharmaceuticals and biomass feedstocks. Despite the appealing potentials, nowadays the industrial-scale application of biocatalysts is still quite modest in comparison with that of traditional chemical catalysts. A critical issue is that the catalytic performance of enzymes, the sophisticated and vulnerable catalytic machineries, strongly depends on their intracellular working environment; however the working circumstances provided by the support matrix are radically different from those in cells. This often leads to various adverse consequences on enzyme conformation and dynamic properties, consequently decreasing the overall performance of immobilized enzymes with regard to their activity, selectivity and stability. Engineering enzyme catalysis in support nanopores by mimicking the physiological milieu of enzymes in vivo and investigating how the interior microenvironment of nanopores imposes an influence on enzyme behaviors in vitro are of paramount significance to modify and improve the catalytic functions of immobilized enzymes. In this feature article, we have summarized the recent advances in mimicking the working environment and working patterns of intracellular enzymes in nanopores of mesoporous silica-based supports. Especially, we have demonstrated that incorporation of polymers into silica nanopores could be a valuable approach to create the biomimetic microenvironment for enzymes in the immobilized state.