Thermophilic Bacterium Efficiently Deconstructs All Major Plant Biomass Components


Conversion of plant biomass to biofuels holds great promise for developing renewable and secure energy sources. However, the presence of lignin in plant biomass creates problems because of its recalcitrance to solubilization and because it limits access to energy-rich polysaccharides, cellulose, and hemicellulose. New research has iden­tified a thermophilic bacterium, Caldicellulosiruptor bascii, that can solubilize the lignin under the same conditions used for degradation of cellulose and hemicellulose, allowing efficient use of plant biomass for microbial growth and biosynthesis of fermentation products. This finding could enable the development of more economical and environ­mental­ly sustainable biomass conversion processes. This research was carried out by a team of scientists at the University of Georgia as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center.


Kataevaa, I., M. B. Foston, S.-J. Yang, S. Pattathil, A. K. Biswal, F. L. Poole II, M. Basen, A. M. Rhaesa, T. P. Thomas, P. Azadi, V. Olman, T. D. Saffold, K. E. Mohler, D. L. Lewis, C. Doeppke, Y. Zeng, T. J. Tschaplinsk, W. S. York, M. Davis, D. Mohnen, Y. Xu, A. J. Ragauskas, S.-Y. Ding, R. M. Kelly, M. G. Hahn, and M. W. W. Adams. 2013. “Carbohydrate and Lignin Are Simultaneously Solubilized from Unpretreated Switchgrass by Microbial Action at High Temperature,” Energy and Environmental Science 6, 2186–95. DOI: 10.1039/C3EE40932E.