NREL look at AcCel5A enzyme to produce cellulosic ethanol in a single step

June 7, 2018 |

In Colorado, if there’s an easier, more efficient method, science will find a way. That’s certainly the case in producing cellulosic biofuels, which, at least for now, requires a two-step process to free the sugars trapped in plant matter and convert them into something else. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory think that’s one-step too many.

NREL researchers are looking into other ways to overcome plant defenses, including using an enzyme called AcCel5A. This enzyme, which comes from the hot-spring bacterium Acidothermus cellulolyticus, weakens biomass by inserting a gene into the plant’s genome and then burrowing into its developing cell wall, creating nicks and voids that make biomass deconstruction easier. Scientists who have tried other enzymes found their experiments stunted the growth of plants, but AcCel5A helped NREL researchers avoid that problem while maintaining the amount of important sugars yielded by the plant.

The scientists have had particular success in using AcCel5A with Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant regarded as a weed because of how quickly it grows.

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Category: Research

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