The aim of the research was to study the effect of adjusting the initial pH of shrimp shell (8.64 vs. 7.00) on the ability of the fungus Aspergillus niger to carry out deproteinization process of galactose supplemented shrimp shells and to investigate the performance characteristics of the deproteinization process. The results showed that the initial pH of the shells has a significant effect on the temperature, carbon dioxide emission, moisture content, galactose, proteinase activity, protein, chitin and final appearance of shells. The temperatures of the shrimp shells and the exhaust gas declined during the lag period as the heat losses from the bioreactor were higher than the heat generated by microbial activities in the bioreactor. They started to rise during the exponential growth when the heat generation by metabolic activity exceeded the heat losses, reaching maximum values of 37.5 and 30.6°C after 60 h and of 29.1 and 27.2°C after 72 h for the runs with the initial pH of 8.64 and 7.0, respectively. The carbon dioxide increased with time reaching maximum values of 0.49 and 0.22% and then declined reaching 0.06 and 0.08% by the end of the experiment for the runs with initial pH of 8.64 and 7.00, respectively. A strong correlation between the concentration of carbon dioxide in the exhaust gas and the temperature of the shrimp shells was observed. The initial moisture content of 60% fell below 25.5 and 21.5% and the galactose concentration decreased from the initial value of 20 to 1.48% and 6.17% by the end of the deproteinization process for the runs with initial pH of 8.64 and 7.00, respectively. Although the protease activity increased by 3.3-6.3 fold, the reduction in the protein concentration did not correspond to the increase in the protease activity due to the high pH of the shrimp shells. The chitin concentration increased from an initial value of 16.56 to final values of 22.68 and 21.35 for the initial pH of 8.64 and 7.00, respectively. The spent shrimp shells obtained from the run with the initial pH of 8.64 were wet and had a pale pink-orange color with some tan patches, whereas the spent shrimp shells obtained from the with the initial pH of 8.64 appeared dry and had a gray-black color due to the presence of A. niger spores. The use of lactic acid to lower the pH of shrimp shells inhibited the growth of A. niger and protease production and activity and enhanced sporulation. The existence of the pink-orange color was an indication of the presence of pigments, which were not utilized during the fermentation process.
Key words: Shrimp shells, Aspergillus niger, deproteinization, protein, protease, chitin, galactose, temperature, pH, moisture content.
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