BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

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

BER Research Highlights


Mining Compost for New Microbial Enzymes to Degrade Switchgrass
Published: January 25, 2010
Posted: February 10, 2010

Enzymatic breakdown of plant biomass is one of the most expensive steps in the production of cellulosic biofuels, mostly due to the low efficiencies of current commercially available enzymes. Deconstruction of grass feedstocks such as switchgrass and corn stover presents a particular challenge. Grass material is effectively broken down by microbial communities in compost piles, but the involved enzymes have remained largely unexplored because it is difficult to isolate the responsible organisms. Now researchers at the DOE Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI) have identified biomass degrading enzymes produced by compost microbes during growth on switchgrass. Led by Phil Hugenholtz of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the team characterized genes thought to be involved in biomass breakdown and synthesized two reconstructed hemicellulose-degrading enzymes. These enzymes are promising candidates for further study and improvement by genetic engineering andsuggest potential pathways to new enzymatic treatment strategies tailored to specific biomass feedstocks.

Reference: Allgaier M, Reddy A, Park JI, Ivanova N, D'haeseleer P, Lowry S, Sapra R, Hazen TC, Simmons BA, VanderGheynst JS, Hugenholtz P. 2010. "Targeted Discovery of Glycoside Hydrolases from a Switchgrass-Adapted Compost Community," PLoS ONE 5(1): e8812.

Contact: Joseph Graber, SC-23.2, (301) 903-1239
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco
Objectives

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)