Indexed on: 31 May '12Published on: 31 May '12Published in: Critical reviews in biotechnology
Keratinases are special proteases which attack the highly recalcitrant keratin substrates. They stand apart from the conventional proteases due to their broad substrate specificity towards a variety of insoluble keratin rich substrates like feather, wool, nail, hair. Owing to this ability, keratinases find immense applications in various environmental and biotechnological sectors. The current boost in keratinase research has come up with the discovery of the ability of keratinases to address the challenging issue of prion decontamination. Here we present a comprehensive review on microbial keratinases giving an account of chronological progress of research along with the major milestones. Major focus has been on the key characteristics of keratinases, such as substrate specificity, keratin degradation mechanisms, molecular properties, and their role in prion decontamination along with other pharmaceutical applications. We conclude by critically evaluating the present state of the keratinases discussing their commercial status along with future research directions.