U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Breaking Down the Steps of Plant Cell Wall Lignin Degradation
Published: January 25, 2010
Posted: February 10, 2010

We need to understand the biological mechanisms for cleaving the plant wall component lignin to develop new strategies for producing biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass. Researchers from the Forest Products Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin have shown how different unsaturated fatty acids assist a peroxidase enzyme in lignin breakdown. Some peroxidases from wood-decay fungi can cleave the major recalcitrant structures in lignin, but these reactions require the participation of low molecular weight mediators that apparently act as diffusible free radical oxidants. The new results show that the major unsaturated fatty acid produced by the fungi, linoleic acid, is also the most effective mediator for breakdown of lignin. Future experiments will examine the effectiveness of lignocellulosic degradation using peroxidases by including linoleic acid or linoleate esters in the formulations.

Reference: Kapich, A. N. et al., Oxidizability of unsaturated fatty acids and of a non-phenolic lignin structure in the manganese peroxidase-dependent lipid peroxidation system. Enzyme & Microbial Technology 46 (2010) 136-140.

Contact: Arthur Katz, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4932
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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