A ‘dominant’ fungus could provide a solution to produce more biofuels and valuable chemicals, new research finds – ScienceDaily

The discovery of a new enzyme that releases a valuable chemical from agricultural waste could be a significant breakthrough in scaling up renewable fuels and chemicals, according to a new study.

Researchers – led by the University of York – have discovered an enzyme in a fungus that can act as a catalyst to trigger a biochemical reaction that breaks down lignocellulose

Lignocellulose is found in forestry and agricultural wastes like wheat straw, which was used in this research. Scientists have long believed that this dry matter could be used as a sustainable resource for the production of fuels and chemicals if a way to break it down can be found so that it can be processed efficiently.

Professor Neil Bruce of the Department of Biology and Director of the Center for New Agricultural Products (CNAP) said: “We believe this discovery is important because there is great interest in using lignocellulose as a renewable and sustainable resource for production of liquid fuels and chemicals.

“Although lignocellulose is one of the most abundant forms of fixed carbon in the biosphere, the use of lignocellulose as a material to fuel the bio-industry has been hampered by its composition and structure, making it very resistant to degradation.

“This is, in part, due to the presence of lignin, a complex aromatic polymer that envelops the structure to block the accessibility of enzymes.”

There is currently no industrial biocatalytic process for breaking down lignin.

But researchers have found that an enzyme produced by a fungus called Parascedosporium putredinis NO1 can break through lignin to begin the essential degradation process needed to ultimately produce biofuels.

Professor Bruce added: “P. putredinis NO1 is able to dominate cultures in the late stages of wheat straw degradation in a mixed microbial community when easily accessible polysaccharides have been depleted.

“We demonstrate that treatments with this enzyme can increase the digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass, offering the possibility of producing a valuable product from lignin while lowering processing costs.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center of the Wisconsin Energy Institute’s Department of Energy and the University of Wisconsin, United States.

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