Potential Application of Pectinase in Food and Agricultural Sectors


Pectinase is an enzyme that breaks down pectin, a polysaccharide found in plant cell walls. Commonly referred to as pectic enzymes, they include pectolyase, pectozyme, and polygalacturonase, one of the most studied and widely used commercial pectinases. It is useful because pectin is the jelly-like matrix which helps cement plant cells together and in which other cell wall components, such as cellulose fibrils, are embedded. Therefore, pectinase enzymes are commonly used in processes involving the degradation of plant materials, such as speeding up the extraction of fruit juice from fruit, including apples and sapota. Pectinases have also been used in wine production since the 1960s. The function of pectinase in brewing is twofold, first it helps break down the plant (typically fruit) material and so helps the extraction of flavours from the mash. Secondly the presence of pectin in finished wine causes a haze or slight cloudiness. Pectinase is used to break this down and so clear the wine.

Pectinases are the enzymes whose discovery causes revolution in economic and commercial sector. Pectic enzymes may be alkaline or acidic in nature depending upon their source of production. Alkaline pectinases are mainly synthesized by both prokaryotic while acidic pectinases are produced from eukaryotic microorganisms. Among eukaryotic microorganism, yeast has distinct role in synthesis of pectinases. Their optimal pH is 3.5-11 while optimal temperatures is 40-75°C.

Chemically, pectinases are defined as, poly α1-4-galacturonic acids, with variable concentration of methylated residues of carboxylic acids. Structurally, pectin has three main regions, smooth (linear), hairy and branched regions. About one third of the dry weight of plant tissuesis occupied by pectinases. They have been prominently observed in primary cell walls and middle lamella of plants.

Pectinases in food sector

Application of pectinases in food processing has prolonged significantly in recent years mainly in extraction, clarification and stabilization process. Acidic pectinases have major role in fruit and vegetable juice industry, they are produced by fungi mainly from Aspergillus spp. due to its distinct role in food industries. Enzyme preparations are mainly comprising of pectin lyases, esterases and polygalacturonases. Pectate lyases act on the ester group of pectin while the polygalacturonases have opposite action of lyases because they degrade de-esterified pectin followed by the action of pectin esterases. Pectinases can be used with other enzymes like cellulases, arabinases, or xylanases which enhance the pressing fruit efficiency for their extraction of juice. Pectinases along with cellulases increases juice yield up to100%.

Pectinases in agriculture sector

Purification of plant viruses

Pectinases are very important in isolation of plant viruses. Particularly alkaline pectinases in conjunction with cellulases releases the plant virus from the phloem tissue and in result a very pure preparation of plant viruses can be obtained.

Oil extraction

Pectinases and other cell wall degrading enzymes are used in oil extraction from plant but olive oil extraction is the most common. Commercial preparations for extraction of olive oil contains cellulases and hemicellulases. During grinding of olives these enzymes are added for easy oil extraction. Pectins resist the emulsification process by interfering with the collection of oils droplets from peel extracts which helps in the oil extraction as in case of lemon. Vegetable oils of sunflower, coconut, lemon, palm or canola can also be extracted by using organic solvents like hexane and by treating with pectinases, preferably of alkaline nature, as they facilitate extraction of oils in an aqueous process.

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Nicola B
Editorial Team
Journal of  Biochemistry and Biotechnology