Indexed on: 25 Jan '11Published on: 25 Jan '11Published in: Microbial Biotechnology
Laccase efficiently catalyses polymerization of phenolic compounds. However, knowledge on applications of polymers synthesized in this manner remains scarce. Here, the potential of laccase-catalysed polymerization of natural phenols to form products useful in hair dyeing was investigated. All 15 tested phenols yielded coloured products after laccase treatment and colour diversity was attained by using mixtures of two phenolic monomers. After exploring colour differentiation pattern of 120 different reactions with statistical regression analysis, three monomer combinations, namely gallic acid and syringic acid, catechin and catechol, and ferulic acid and syringic acid, giving rise to brown, black, and red materials, respectively, were further characterized because such colours are commercially important for grey hair dyeing. Selected polymers could strongly absorb visible light and their hydrodynamic sizes ranged from 100 to 400 nm. Analyses of enzyme kinetic constants, liquid chromatography and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) coupled with collision-induced dissociation MS/MS indicate that both monomers in reactions involving catechin and catechol, and ferulic acid and syringic acid, are coloured by heteropolymer synthesis, but the gallic acid/syringic acid combination is based on homopolymer mixture formation. Comparison of colour parameters from these three reactions with those of corresponding artificial homopolymer mixtures also supported the idea that laccase may catalyse either hetero- or homo-polymer synthesis. We finally used selected materials to dye grey hair. Each material coloured hair appropriately and the dyeing showed excellent resistance to conventional shampooing. Our study indicates that laccase-catalysed polymerization of natural phenols is applicable to the development of new cosmetic pigments.