Screening Natural Resources for Enzymes With Wood Degrading and Wood Modifying Properties
Conference contribution, 2011
The production of high added value compounds from forest and agricultural biomass has become one of the main targets of contemporary carbohydrates research. The renewability of the biomass, the potential use of waste residues and the complete or partial biodegradability of the products have made the whole approach an attractive perspective towards the sustainable and green ideal. However, most of the already developed biomass separation and modification processes are based on chemical reactions at extreme conditions that are costly and often harmful for the environment. Enzymatic and microbial catalyzed processes present an interesting alternative. The development and discovery of novel biological approaches in the modification, degradation and separation of wood biomass is one of the main activities of the Industrial Biotechnology Group at Chalmers University of Technology, also as part of the Wallenberg Wood Science Center (WWSC).
Presently, we pursue this aim through a triple approach:
• Μultiple enzymatic screening of phytopathogenic and wood degrading filamentous fungi, such as Trametes hirsuta and Penicillium pinophilum, as well as screening newly isolated microorganisms. We seek enzymes with industrially interesting activities and unique properties, such as reactivity under extreme conditions.
• Microorganisms efficient in degrading lignocellulose produce enzyme in response to the environmental conditions. In collaboration with Associate Professor Gianni Panagiotou, Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, DTU, we are looking for sequenced, but still unclassified proteins, which are related to the degradation of plant biomass using information from transcriptomics analysis of Aspergillus oryzae grown on different carbon sources.
• Novel enzymes can only be identified by new methods. We investigate the properties of synthetic model compounds that can simulate the natural substrates and the implementation of different analytical methods for the identification of the sometimes complex and singular enzymatic activities. In collaboration with Associate Professor Paul Christakopoulos, BIOtechMASS Unit, School of Chemical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, we also attempt to isolate model compounds from plant cell wall material.