Critical redox processes for efficient saccharification of lignocellulose: lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases at play

The project is carried out in the Division of Industrial Biotechnology.

Researchers: Ausra Peciulyte, Katja Salomon Johansen, Lisbeth Olsson

The focus of the work is (i) a fundamental understanding of the enzymatic mechanism of action of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases; (ii) addressing how the application of these enzymes can reach its full potential; and (iii) further integrate agricultural and forestry-based research for the bioethanol production.

As a result of the increasing burden on the environment and the scarcity of natural resources, we need to find new ways of supplying a growing population with products for daily life. In a bio-based economy we want to produce bioplastics, biochemicals and biofuels from plant biomass. One of the reasons why plant biomass is interesting is that it could serve as an energy source for microorganisms, which could be used to produce many different products of interest. However, the energy stored in plant biomass is not readily available. We need to use certain enzymes, known collectively as carbohydrate-active enzymes, which are produced by bacteria and filamentous fungi, to degrade plant biomass into fermentable small sugars.

The recent discovery of enzymes termed lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases has led to a significant improvement in the efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis and thus in the process of the production of biofuels. These enzymes are capable of breaking glycosidic bonds using oxidative mechanism which has not been known until recently. Their mode of action significantly boosts the activity of other hydrolytic enzymes such as cellulases.

There is a direct connection between fundamental understanding of enzyme mechanism and the development of industrial production of sugar from plant biomass. With the discovery and inclusion of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases in industrial enzyme cocktails, a new unexplored area of importance for biofuel production has arisen. In this project we specifically focus on addressing how the application of these redox-active enzymes can reach its full potential.

The project is funded by Swedish Energy Agency.




Published: Mon 19 Sep 2016.