Researchers Discover New Enzyme Paradigm for Critical Reaction in Converting Lignin to Useful Products

July 22, 2018 |

In Washington, D.C., an international research team, including scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), discovered and characterized a new family of cytochrome P450 enzymes that is critical to improving the conversion of lignin into valuable products such as nylon, plastics, and chemicals.

The study outlines how the international team of researchers determined the molecular structure of a previously uncharacterized cytochrome P450 that turned out to have a completely different, two-component architecture, which represents a new class of P450s: Family N.

Learning about the structure and function of enzymes helps scientists improve the microbes and thus enhance processes like the biological conversion of lignin from plant biomass into valuable products. And P450s are a great place to start. Researchers studied how the enzyme interacts with its products and substrate and quickly realized that this cytochrome P450 is more than a guaiacol specialist; it’s a generalist that can perform demethylation on a variety of substances. Demethylation is the simple chemistry of removing a methyl group, and the microbial conversion of lignin relies on this critical reaction.

 

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Category: Research

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