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

BER Research Highlights


Learning New Tricks from Fungi to Improve Biomass Processing
Published: February 14, 2011
Posted: March 17, 2011

Knowing how biomass is degraded in nature will advance understanding in how to process biomass for conversion to biofuels. The biodegradation of plant material generally involves removal of the resistant lignin barrier that prevents enzymes from reaching cellulose and degrading it to sugar. However, brown rot fungi, natural biomass recycler in coniferous forests, degrade biomass without removing much of the lignin. DOE researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) in Madison, Wisconsin, report that these fungi can disrupt the lignin in wood even though it remains in place. They discovered that key chemical linkages (ethers) in lignin’s complex molecular structure are broken, likely using reactive oxygen species such as hydroxyl radicals. They applied newly developed nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology to look at the chemistry of wood attacked by a brown rot fungus. These results will enable development of new routes to access cellulose in biomass as part of the large-scale production of biofuels and will also improve understanding of natural carbon cycling from wood.

Reference: Yelle, D., D. Wei, J. Ralph, and K. E. Hammel. 2011. “Multidimensional NMR Analysis Reveals Truncated Lignin Structures in Wood Decayed by the Brown Rot Basidiomycete Postia placenta,” Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2010.02417.x.

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

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • 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)
  • Research Area: Research Technologies and Methodologies

Division: SC-23.2 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

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)