Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rot's Unique Wood Degrading Machinery To Be Harnessed For Better Biofuels Production

Date:
February 9, 2009
Source:
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Summary:
Scientists have translated the genetic code that explains the complex biochemical machinery making brown-rot fungi uniquely destructive to wood. The same processes that provide easier access to the energy-rich sugar molecules bound up in the plant's tenacious architecture are leading to innovations for the biofuels industry.

This is the brown-rot fungus Postia placenta amongst wood cells.
Credit: Thomas Kuster, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory

An international team led by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have translated the genetic code that explains the complex biochemical machinery making brown-rot fungi uniquely destructive to wood. The same processes that provide easier access to the energy-rich sugar molecules bound up in the plant's tenacious architecture are leading to innovations for the biofuels industry. T

he research, conducted by more than 50 authors, is reported in the February 4 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Among the challenges to more cost-effective production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass—the fibrous material of whole plants—is to find effective means to work around the polymer lignin, the scaffolding that endows the plant's architecture with rigidity and protection from pests. By doing so, the organic compound cellulose—the long chain of glucose (sugar) units can be unbound, broken down, fermented, and distilled into liquid transportation fuel. This is where the destructive capabilities of rot come in.

"The microbial world represents a little explored yet bountiful resource for enzymes that can play a central role in the deconstruction of plant biomass—an early step in biofuel production," said Eddy Rubin, Director of the DOE JGI, where the genome sequencing was conducted. "The brown-rot Postia placenta's genome offers us a detailed inventory of the biomass-degrading enzymes that this and other fungi possess."

Rubin pointed to a complementary strategy that DOE and its Bioenergy Research Centers are pursuing of targeting a new generation of plants—perennial grasses and fast-growing trees such as poplar—bred specifically as biomass for biofuels. Among the desirable characteristics of biofuel "feedstocks" is the ease by which they can be deconstructed. Traditionally, harsh chemicals and expensive high-heat treatments have been employed. In parallel with the development of improved feedstocks is finding just the right mix of enzymes to get the most out of converting biomass into fuel.

"Nature offers some guidance here," said Dan Cullen, FPL scientist and one of the senior authors on the PNAS paper. "Postia has, over its evolution, shed the conventional enzymatic machinery for attacking plant material. Instead, the evidence suggests that it utilizes an arsenal of small oxidizing agents that blast through plant cell walls to depolymerize the cellulose. This biological process opens a door to more effective, less-energy intensive and more environmentally-sound strategies for more lignocellulose deconstruction."

Few organisms in nature can efficiently breakdown lignin into smaller, more manageable chemical units amenable to biofuels production. The exceptions are the basidiomycete fungi, which include white-rot and brown-rot—wood-decayers and essential caretakers of carbon in forest systems. In addition, brown-rot fungi have significant economic impact because their ability to wreak havoc with wooden structures. A significant portion of the U.S. timber harvest is diverted toward replacing such decayed materials.

Unlike white-rot fungi, previously characterized by DOE JGI and FPL, which simultaneously degrades lignin and cellulose, brown-rot rapidly depolymerizes the cellulose in wood without removing the lignin. Up until this study, the underlying genetics and biochemical mechanisms were poorly understood.

DNA sequence is the first step in the central dogma of molecular biology first articulated over 50 years ago by Francis Crick—the transfer of information from DNA to RNA, which in turn, is translated into protein products, such as enzymes. Postia's genome sequence was also the first step in the process that the scientific team employed to home in on the subset of data, the transcriptome, that encodes the specific enzyme activity, and the secretome, the products exported from the cell.

"For the first time we have been able to compare the genetic blue prints of brown-rot, white-rot and soft-rot fungi which play a major role in the carbon cycle of our planet," said Randy Berka, another one of the study's senior authors and Director of Integrative Biology, at Novozymes, Inc., of Davis, Calif. "Such comparisons will increase our understanding of the diverse mechanisms and chemistries involved in lignocellulose degradation. This type of information may empower industrial biotechnologists to devise new strategies to enhance efficiencies and reduce costs associated with biomass conversion for renewable fuels and chemical intermediates."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Joint Genome Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

DOE/Joint Genome Institute. "Rot's Unique Wood Degrading Machinery To Be Harnessed For Better Biofuels Production." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090205154035.htm>.
DOE/Joint Genome Institute. (2009, February 9). Rot's Unique Wood Degrading Machinery To Be Harnessed For Better Biofuels Production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090205154035.htm
DOE/Joint Genome Institute. "Rot's Unique Wood Degrading Machinery To Be Harnessed For Better Biofuels Production." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090205154035.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins