Engineering Synthetic Cellulose-degrading Complexes from Gut Fungi in S. cerevisiae

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Synthetic, multi-protein enzyme machines can be engineered to break down plant material into sugars. These complexes are derived from fungal cellulosomes, which are produced from anaerobic gut fungi within the digestive tract of large herbivores

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Renewable biofuels derived from plant biomass are an attractive alternative to petroleum-based fuels for the US Army. However, problems associated with substrate recalcitrance in the depolymerization of lignocellulose have prohibited biofuel development. In order to realize the potential of cellulosic materials as an energy source, it is necessary to develop new technologies to convert crude sources of cellulose in plant biomass to sugar. To address this issue – much may be learned by studying nature, particularly microbiomes where high efficiency biomass breakdown regularly occurs. For example, anaerobic gut fungi found in the digestive tract of large herbivores are among the most efficient degraders of lignocellulose on earth. This project aims to discover novel cellulose-degrading enzymes from anaerobic gut fungi and to engineer synthetic multi-protein enzyme complexes (cellulosomes) for the conversion of plant biomass into biofuels.



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