JBEI discovers enzyme to break down cell walls

February 7, 2017 |

In California, the discovery of a specialized enzyme that is highly effective at breaking down rigid plant cell wall components could be harnessed to solve this major challenge. A multi-institutional team of researchers led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) combined comparative proteomics with biochemical measurements. They then assessed differences in glycoside hydrolases produced by diverse microbes in communities cultivated from green waste compost and grown on crystalline cellulose. The team used several mass spectrometry instruments at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, and high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies at the DOE Joint Genome Institute, both of which are DOE Office of Science user facilities.

Their analysis revealed that a glycoside hydrolase family 12 enzyme, produced by the bacterium Thermobispora bispora, plays a previously underappreciated role in breaking down crystalline cellulose. The new findings suggest this enzyme could be especially effective at converting plant biomass to fuels and chemicals. More broadly, the study illustrates the power of comparative community proteomics to reveal novel insights into microbial enzymes that scientists could harness for fuel production from renewable energy sources.

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Category: Research

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