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Enzymatic reduction of azo and indigoid compounds

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A customer- and environment-friendly method for the decolorization azo dyes was developed. Azoreductases could be used both to bleach hair dyed with azo dyes and to reduce dyes in vat dyeing of textiles. A new reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide-dependent azoreductase of Bacillus cereus, which showed high potential for reduction of these dyes, was purified using a combination of ammonium sulfate precipitation and chromatography and had a molecular mass of 21.5 kDa. The optimum pH of the azoreductase depended on the substrate and was within the range of pH 6 to 7, while the maximum temperature was reached at 40°C. Oxygen was shown to be an alternative electron acceptor to azo compounds and must therefore be excluded during enzymatic dye reduction. Biotransformation of the azo dyes Flame Orange and Ruby Red was studied in more detail using UV-visible spectroscopy, high-performance liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry (MS). Reduction of the azo bonds leads to cleavage of the dyes resulting in the cleavage product 2-amino-1,3 dimethylimidazolium and N∼1∼,N∼1∼-dimethyl-1,4-benzenediamine for Ruby Red, while only the first was detected for Flame Orange because of MS instability of the expected 1,4-benzenediamine. The azoreductase was also found to reduce vat dyes like Indigo Carmine (C.I. Acid Blue 74). Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as an oxidizing agent was used to reoxidize the dye into the initial form. The reduction and oxidation mechanism of Indigo Carmine was studied using UV-visible spectroscopy.

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We would like to thank Dr. Kai Uwe-Schöning from CIBA Sc for numerous fruitful discussions and for the initiation of this project.

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Correspondence to G. M. Guebitz.

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Pricelius, S., Held, C., Murkovic, M. et al. Enzymatic reduction of azo and indigoid compounds. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 77, 321–327 (2007).

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  • Azo reductase
  • Hair dye
  • Flame orange
  • Indigo
  • Bacillus cereus