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Microbe enables enzymes to extend produce ripening time.

Did you know that millions of tons of fruits and vegetables end up in the trash can without being consumed?

But now scientists at Georgia State University are using a naturally occurring microorganism to keep produce and flowers fresh for longer periods of time. The microorganism induces enzymes that extend the ripening time of fruits and vegetables, and keeps the blooms of flowers fresh. The process does not involve genetic engineering or the use of pathogens, but microorganisms known to be associated with plants which are considered to be helpful and beneficial to them.

These beneficial soil microorganisms serve essentially the same function as probiotics that are beneficial organisms living in the gastrointestinal system. The process works by manipulating the organism's diet so that it will over-express certain enzymes and activity that work in the ripening process.

In a very simple sense, climacteric plants, such as apples, bananas, peaches and tomatoes, respond to climactic change. When they do, they produce increased levels of signal compounds like ethylene. For fruit such as peaches, ethylene causes the peach to ripen, increases aroma chemicals, but unfortunately makes the peach very fragile. A ripe peach will lose most of its ability to resist pressure, which means that if a peach responds normally to ethylene, it is subject to bruising when it is shipped.

The enzymes produced with the new technique reduce the response to signal compounds so that it takes longer for fruits to ripen, essentially doubling the time it takes for ripening to occur. The catalyst in this process can be incorporated into shipping boxes, packaging materials or used to treat the air of shipping containers. It could be used either with individual fruits or vegetables or with larger bulk quantities.

This new process could help prevent waste, improve the consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables, and allow companies to ship produce longer distances. The method also will allow companies to store fruits and vegetables at room temperatures rather than refrigerate them, helping to save energy.

Patents. 7,531,343. Induction and stabilization of enzymatic activity in microorganisms. May 12, 2009. Inventors: Pierce, et al. The patent covers methods for inducing desired activity in enzymes or microorganisms capable of producing the enzymes. It involves stabilizing activity in microorganisms. The invention provides ways for inducing and stabilizing nitrile hydratase activity, amidase activity and asparaginase I activity. 7,531,344. Induction and stabilization of enzymatic activity in microorganisms. May 12, 2009. Inventors: Pierce, et al. This patent is similar to the first patent.

Further information. George Pierce, Department of Biology, Georgia State University, 423 Kell Hall, P.O. Box 4010, Atlanta, GA 30302; phone: 404-413-5315; email:
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Aug 1, 2010
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