Taste modifiers – virtual screening and biocatalytic production

Published on February 13, 2015

Homoeriodictyol (HED) is a flavan type natural product active as bitter blocker. It was used as a lead compound to identify further natural products with a similar activity in silico and by sensory evaluation.


In addition to conventional chemical synthesis, there is a demand for biotechnological production means of food additives. Therefore, enzyme cascades able to convert available natural precursors to high value products have been identified. Enzymes are rationally re-designed in silico for better performance, and then combined in vitro and in vivo for the one pot production of the target compound. Research in the Wessjohann group combines several disciplines like natural product discovery, analysis and chemical synthesis, computational chemistry, molecular biology and protein biochemistry to succeed.

Wessjohann Group | Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Halle, Germany

Prof. Dr. Dr. Ludger Wessjohann is managing director of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry and head of the Department “Bioorganic Chemistry”. He has published more than 300 papers and filed over 20 original patents. His interests span the discovery and development of new bioactive compounds, from isolation to total synthesis and mode of action studies. Modern computational, chemoenzymatic and synthetic biology methods play a crucial role in this.

Biochemist Dr. Silke Pienkny investigates protein-ligand interactions and structure- activity relationships of taste modifiers using computational chemistry methods. She is a postdoctoral fellow in the Wessjohann group (AG Brandt).

Dr. Danilo Meyer is a molecular enzymologist and aims to understand cofactor-dependent enzymes on a mechanistic level that helps to optimize them for potential industrial applications. He heads a biocatalysis project in the Wessjohann group.

In his PhD thesis the biochemist Benjamin Weigel studies methyltransferases and SAM-synthases as relevant enzymes in the biosynthetic production of bitter masking compounds.

Dr. Wolfgang Brandt is head of computational chemistry in the Wessjohann group. He is an expert in protein structure modelling and MM/QM calculations.


Ley, J. P.; Dessoy, M.; Paetz, S.; Blings, M.; Hoffmann-Lücke, P.; Reichelt, K.; Krammer, G. E.; Pientkny, S.; Brandt, W.; Wessjohann, L. A.: “Identification of Enterodiol as Masker for Caffeine Bitterness by using a Pharmacophor Model based on Structural Analogous of Homoeriodictyol” J. Agricult. Food Chem. 2012, 60, 6303 – 6311, DOI: 10.1021/jf301335z.

Dippe, M.; Brandt, W.; Rost, H.; Porzel, A., Schmidt, J.; Wessjohann, L. A.: “Rationally engineered variants of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) synthase: reduced product inhibition and synthesis of artificial cofactor homologues” Chem. Commun. 2015, online: DOI: 10.1039/C4CC08478K.

Dippe, M., Brandt, W.; Wessjohann, L. A., Rost,H.; Porzel, A.: “S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM) synthase variants for the synthesis of artificial cofactors”, DE 2013, WO03/008591A1

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