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The physical and chemical properties of six crude phytase preparations were compared. Four of these enzymes (Aspergillus A, Aspergillus R, Peniophora and Aspergillus T) were produced at commercial scale for the use as feed additives while the other two (E. coli and Bacillus) were produced at laboratory scale. The encoding genes of the enzymes were from different microbial origins (4 of fungal origin and 2 of bacterial origin, i.e., E. coli and Bacillus phytases). One of the fungal phytases (Aspergillus R) was expressed in transgenic rape. The enzymes were studied for their pH behaviour, temperature optimum and stability and resistance to protease inactivation. The phytases were found to exhibit different properties depending on source of the phytase gene and the production organism. The pH profiles of the enzymes showed that the fungal phytases had their pH optima ranging from 4.5 to 5.5. The bacterial E. coli phytase had also its pH optimum in the acidic range at pH 4.5 while the pH optimum for the Bacillus enzyme was identified at pH 7.0. Temperature optima were at 50 and 60 degrees C for the fungal and bacterial phytases, respectively. The Bacillus phytase was more thermostable in aqueous solutions than all other enzymes. In pelleting experiments performed at 60, 70 and 80 degrees C in the conditioner, Aspergillus A, Peniophora (measurement at pH 5.5) and E. coli phytases were more heat stable compared to other enzymes (Bacillus enzyme was not included). At a temperature of 70 degrees C in the conditioner, these enzymes maintained a residual activity of approximately 70% after pelleting compared to approximately 30% determined for the other enzymes. Incubation of enzyme preparations with porcine proteases revealed that only E. coli phytase was insensitive against pepsin and pancreatin. Incubation of the enzymes in digesta supernatants from various segments of the digestive tract of hens revealed that digesta from stomach inactivated the enzymes most efficiently except E. coli phytase which had a residual activity of 93% after 60 min incubation at 40 degrees C. It can be concluded that phytases of various microbial origins behave differently with respect to their in vitro properties which could be of importance for future developments of phytase preparations. Especially bacterial phytases contain properties like high temperature stability (Bacillus phytase) and high proteolytic stability (E. coli phytase) which make them favourable for future applications as feed additives.