APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Enhanced biomass conversion in the enzymatic deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass using fungal laccases.
- Pretreatment cocktails and emerging technologies development aimed at converting lignin into bioproducts.
- Increased efficiency and reduced costs of lignocellulosic biomass conversion.
- A challenge in lignocellulosic biomass conversion to biofuels and bioproducts is inefficient and incomplete cellulose degradation by glucanases and xylanases due to the presence of lignin. Although conventional glucanases and xylanases bind or interact very strongly with lignin, they are incapable of breaking lignin linkages. Fungal laccases are capable of cleaving these phenolic lignin bonds but lack cellulose/hemicellulose cleaving ability. Novel enzymatic activity and/or glycan cleavage ability in laccases can reduce costs in pretreatment and biofuel production.
Researchers at JBEI discovered a new process in biomass degradation using fungal laccase enzymes capable of cleaving both glycan/xylan and lignin linkages.
Using a NIMS-based enzyme assay to study activities of GHs and LMEs, researchers discovered previously-uncharacterized enzymatic activity in fungal laccases that were capable of cleaving the glycan bond in a cellobiose probe, both in the presence and absence of the phenolic probe. Researchers have developed a process for using laccase enzymes for cleavage and/or modification of untreated plant biomass, pre-treated plant biomass, cellulose, xylose, polysaccharides, and polyphenolics. Using fungal laccase over commonly used glucanases leads to less pretreatment required for releasing sugars, far fewer requisite enzymes, and a possibility of enzyme recycling in the cleavage of glycan bonds.
We envision that licensees will use fungal laccases with or in place of current glucanase/xylanase-based enzyme cocktails to cleave glycan bonds. Since fungal laccases are also a current target enzyme for lignin deconstruction, we envision that fungal laccase cocktails may be used to deconstruct both lignin and cellulose/hemicellulose without pretreatment or pre-separation steps and may potentially enable streamlining of process flows for bioproduct production from both lignin and cellulose/hemicellulose.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
STATUS: Patent pending.
OPPORTUNITIES: Available for licensing or collaborative research.
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