Keratin is a fibrous protein mainly found in higher vertebrates such as mammals, birds, and reptiles. It is also a major constituent of human epithelial tissues. Major keratinaceous wastes include skin, hair, wool, feather, horns, hooves, and nails. Large amounts of such wastes are generated from meat industry, poultry houses, and wool industry etc. Though keratinous wastes contain about 90% protein, keratin is usually recalcitrant to normal proteases. Such wastes have been traditionally digested using physico-chemical methods. But such techniques are energy-intensive and technologically demanding. Also, such approaches lead to degradation of certain amino acids such as lysine. In nature, keratinaceous wastes don’t accumulate indicating that keratinolytic microorganisms exist in nature. Keratinase producing strains are distributed among bacteria, fungi, and actinobacteria etc. Hence, potent keratinolytic microbes and their enzymes may be used for valorization of keratinous wastes. Efficient degradation of such wastes may generate value-added products such as feed additives, agricultural biofertilizers, and cosmetics. This chapter will give a comprehensive overview of types of keratinaceous wastes, kinds of keratinolytic microbes and keratinases, and valorization of such wastes using keratinase producing strains and/or keratinases.
Part of the book: Keratin