A wealth of fungal enzymes has been identified from nature, which continue to drive strain engineering and bioprocessing for a range of industries. However, while a number of clades have been investigated, the vast majority of the fungal kingdom remains unexplored for industrial applications. Here, we discuss selected classes of fungal enzymes that are currently in biotechnological use, and explore more basal, non-conventional fungi and their underexploited biomass-degrading mechanisms as promising agents in the transition towards a bio-based society. Of special interest are anaerobic fungi like the Neocallimastigomycota, which were recently found to harbor the largest diversity of biomass-degrading enzymes among the fungal kingdom. Enzymes sourced from these basal fungi have been used to metabolically engineer substrate utilization in yeast, and may offer new paths to lignin breakdown and tunneled biocatalysis. We also contrast classic enzymology approaches with emerging ‘omics’-based tools to decipher function within novel fungal isolates and identify new promising enzymes. Recent developments in genome editing are expected to accelerate discovery and metabolic engineering within these systems, yet are still limited by a lack of high-resolution genomes, gene regulatory regions, and even appropriate culture conditions. Finally, we present new opportunities to harness the biomass-degrading potential of undercharacterized fungi via heterologous expression and engineered microbial consortia.
Date: September, 2017