Researchers make breakthrough on how microbe breaks down lignocellulose

December 22, 2017 |

In Massachusetts, findings from a new study reveal some of the basic tools used by a specific microbe to break down lignocellulose. This work provides insight into how industrial processes might achieve degradation during biofuel production, and how side processes such as hydrogen production might be harnessed as well.

One candidate species that can use lignin for growth in the absence of oxygen is Enterobacter lignolyticus SCF1, a bacterium isolated from tropical rain forest soil. A team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Santa Maria University in Valparaiso, Chile; and EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory conducted whole gene-expression analysis of E.lignolyticus SCF1 using next generation sequencing for transcriptomic analysis. The experiments were conducted on cells grown in the presence of lignin, with samples taken at three different times during growth. Cultures with lignin achieved twice the cell biomass as cultures grown without lignin, and degraded 60 percent of the available lignin.

A complement of enzymes consistent with disruption of the chemical structures present in lignin were up-regulated in lignin-amended conditions. Additionally, the association of hydrogen production with lignin degradation suggests a possible value add to lignin degradation in the future.

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Category: Research

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