Enzyme Discovery in Anaerobic Fungi (Neocallimastigomycetes) Enables Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Innovation


Lignocellulosic biorefineries require innovative solutions to realize their full potential, and the discovery of novel lignocellulose-active enzymes could improve biorefinery deconstruction processes. Enzymatic deconstruction of plant cell walls is challenging, as noncarbohydrate linkages in hemicellulosic sidechains and lignin protect labile carbohydrates from hydrolysis. Highly specialized microbes that degrade plant biomass are attractive sources of enzymes for improving lignocellulose deconstruction, and the anaerobic gut fungi (Neocallimastigomycetes) stand out as having great potential for harboring novel lignocellulose-active enzymes. We discuss the known aspects of Neocallimastigomycetes lignocellulose deconstruction, including their extensive carbohydrate-active enzyme content, proficiency at deconstructing complex lignocellulose, unique physiology, synergistic enzyme complexes, and sizeable uncharacterized gene content. Progress describing Neocallimastigomycetes and their enzymes has been rapid in recent years, and it will only continue to expand. In particular, direct manipulation of anaerobic fungal genomes, effective heterologous expression of anaerobic fungal enzymes, and the ability to directly relate chemical changes in lignocellulose to fungal gene regulation will accelerate the discovery and subsequent deployment of Neocallimastigomycetes lignocellulose-active enzymes.

ICB Affiliated Authors

Thomas S. Lankiewicz, Stephen P. Lillington, Michelle A. O’Malley
Peer-Reviewed Article
Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews