Renewable fuels have gained importance as the world moves toward diversifying its energy portfolio. A critical step in the biomass-to-bioenergy initiative is deconstruction of plant cell wall polysaccharides to their unit sugars for subsequent fermentation to fuels. To acquire carbon and energy for their metabolic processes, diverse microorganisms have evolved genes encoding enzymes that depolymerize polysaccharides to their carbon/energy-rich building blocks. The microbial enzymes mostly target the energy present in cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin, three major forms of energy storage in plants. In the effort to develop bioenergy as an alternative to fossil fuel, a common strategy is to harness microbial enzymes to hydrolyze cellulose to glucose for fermentation to fuels. However, the conversion of plant biomass to renewable fuels will require both cellulose and hemicellulose, the two largest components of the plant cell wall, as feedstock to improve economic feasibility. Here, we explore the enzymes and strategies evolved by two well-studied bacteria to depolymerize the hemicelluloses xylan/arabinoxylan and mannan. The sets of enzymes, in addition to their applications in biofuels and value-added chemical production, have utility in animal feed enzymes, a rapidly developing industry with potential to minimize adverse impacts of animal agriculture on the environment.
- Plant degradation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology