Tropical Soil Bacterium Frees Plant Sugars for Biofuels


The lignocellulose component of plants could be a sustainable alternative fuel if it could be easily degraded and transformed for use in biofuels. In a recent study, a team of scientists—from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute; and DOE Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)—used proteomic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic approaches at EMSL to examine the ability of Enterobacter lignolyticus SCF1 to degrade lignocellulose. SCF1 is found in tropical forest soils and is known to rapidly decompose leaf litter. This study demonstrated that this bacterium can degrade the lignin portion of plant cellulosic biomass by both assimilatory and dissimilatory pathways. By breaking down the lignin, SCF1 is able to free the cellulosic sugars found in plant cells, thereby making those sugars available for use in biofuels. These research findings are the first to demonstrate that an anaerobic soil bacterium can use both assimilatory and dissimilatory pathways to reduce lignocellulose, as well as demonstrating the importance of a multi-omics, holistic approach to studying biochemical processes in microbes.

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DeAngelis, K. M., D. Sharma, R. Varney, B. Simmons, N. G. Isern, L. M. Markillie, C. Nicora, A. D. Norbeck, R. C. Taylor, J. T. Aldrich, and E. W. Robinson. 2013. “Evidence Supporting Dissimilatory and Assimilatory Lignin Degradation in Enterobacter lignolyticus SCF1,” Frontiers in Microbiology 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00280.