Acetone-dried cells of Arthrobacter simplex having appreciable steroid Δ1-dehydrogenase activity were immobilized by mixing the cell suspension with water-miscible urethane prepolymers synthesized from toluene diisocyanate and polyether diols. The entrapped cell activity in the transformation of hydrocortisone to prednisolone was affected by the properties of urethane prepolymers, such as the isocyanate group content in prepolymers, the molecular weight of polyether diols and the ethylene oxide content in diols. The addition of 10% of organic solvents, such as methanol and glycols, to the aqueous reaction mixture enhanced the solubility of the substrate greatly and the reaction rate of the immobilized cells. The activity of immobilized cells remained high even in the system containing 30% of methanol, which drastically inhibited the activity of free cells. The presence of an electron acceptor, phenazine methosulfate or 2, 6-dichlorophenolindophenol, significantly stimulated the steroid conversion with entrapped cells, as well as free cells. The stability of the cells over repeated reactions was greatly improved by immobilization.
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