The project is carried out in the Division of Industrial Biotechnology.
Researchers: Marcel Taillefer, Johan Larsbrink
Cellulose is produced by plants and other photosynthetic organisms and is the most abundant renewable source of carbon on the planet. Efficient utilization of cellulosic biomass is a promising route in developing a society free from fossil-based energy and materials. The highly recalcitrant crystalline structure of cellulose is however still a significant bottleneck when it comes to enzymatic degradation into fermentable glucose, and thus new and better enzymes are highly desirable.
This project is funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR) within the “Energy-oriented basic research” program, administrated by the Swedish Energy Agency (Energimyndigheten), and runs for two years. The focus of the project is to study the enzymes produced by certain soil bacteria able to utilize cellulose as the only carbon source. These bacteria lack certain key types of cellulose-degrading enzymes that are normally expected in cellulose-degrading microorganisms, and as such they are able to deconstruct cellulose crystals by a so far unknown mechanism. In this project, we want to understand the enzymatic machineries used by these bacteria, and how their novel enzymes can be used in bioenergy applications. We will use transcriptomics and proteomics coupled to enzyme activity assays and knock-out mutants, and thereby attempt to identify the key determinants for cellulose utilization. The project is a collaboration with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, US.