Project Info

Peptide Models for Nitrile Hydratases

Richard Holz

Project Goals and Description:

PtNHase is a protein that falls under the Nitrile Hydratases group. These proteins catalyze the reaction of turning a nitrile (R-C≡N) into an amide (R-C-NH2). This reaction is used in multiple industries such as polymers, pharmaceuticals, feedstocks, etc. Currently, industries use harsh conditions to conduct the reaction which makes this reaction costly and inefficient. It is possible to use the protein instead of these conditions but it requires mass harvesting and purifying process, which is also costly and inefficient. This project aims to develop a working peptide model that can catalyze this reaction. This peptide model is a chain of amino acids based on the amino acids present in the enzyme's active site. The current peptide model is only 9 amino acids long compared to the 600 amino acids long enzyme. This means this model will be easier to produce and higher yields are possible. If this peptide model works it can make this reaction cheaper and more efficient.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Provide access to clean water.
N. Gupta, C. Balomajumder, V.K. Agarwal, Enzymatic mechanism and biochemistry for cyanide degradation: A review, J Hazard Mater. 176 (2010) 1–13.’ S. Mitra, R.C. Holz, Unraveling the catalytic mechanism of nitrile hydratases, Journal of Biological Chemistry. (2007). S. Martinez, R. Wu, K. Krzywda, V. Opalka, H. Chan, D. Liu, R.C. Holz, Analyzing the catalytic role of active site residues in the Fe-type nitrile hydratase from Comamonastestosteroni Ni1, Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry. (2015).

Primary Contacts:

Richard Holz, PI Callie Miller, Chemistry doctoral Student,

Student Preparation


It is strongly suggested that the student has some enzyme/biology experience and chemistry experience.




The student will learn how to use the NMR as well as MALDI-TOF. This student will also learn how to work with a soft-sided Coy, anaerobic chamber and learn how to prepare samples for catalytic and spectroscopic experiments. The student may also learn how to use computer programs to design a peptide model.


The student will attend weekly lab meetings where updates on the project will be reported. The PI will make suggestions and provide guidance on what to do next. The student can also ask graduate students for advice on the project and technique.


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