30-Apr-2021 - University of York

'Dominating' fungus could be solution to producing more biofuels and chemicals

The discovery of a novel enzyme that releases a valuable chemical from agricultural waste could provide an important breakthrough in the upscaling of renewable fuels and chemicals, a new study shows.

Researchers - led by the University of York - have discovered an enzyme in a fungus which can act as a catalyst to bring about a biochemical reaction that breaks down lignocellulose

Lignocellulose is found in forestry and agricultural waste like wheat straw, which was used in this research. It has long been considered by scientists that this dry matter could be used as a sustainable resource for the production of fuels and chemicals if a way to break it down could be found so that it can be processed effectively.

Professor Neil Bruce from the Department of Biology and Director of the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) said: "We believe this discovery is important as there is much interest in using lignocellulose as renewable and sustainable resource for the production of liquid fuels and chemicals.

"Although lignocellulose is one of the most abundant forms of fixed carbon in the biosphere, the use of lignocellulose as a material to supply bioindustry has been hampered by its composition and structure, which renders it highly obstinate to degradation.

"This is, in part, due to the presence of lignin, a complex aromatic polymer that encases the structure to block enzyme accessibility."

There are currently no industrial biocatalytic processes for breaking down lignin.

But researchers found that an enzyme produced by a fungus called, Parascedosporium putredinis NO1, can break through the lignin to begin the essential process of degradation needed to ultimately produce biofuels.

Professor Bruce added: "P. putredinis NO1 is able to dominate cultures in the latter stages of wheat straw degradation in a mixed microbial community when easily accessible polysaccharides have been exhausted.

"We demonstrate that treatments with this enzyme can increase the digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass, offering the possibility of producing a valuable product from lignin while decreasing processing costs."

  • "A multi-omics approach to lignocellulolytic enzyme discovery reveals a new ligninase activity from Parascedosporium putredinis NO1"; PNAS
Facts, background information, dossiers
  • Lignin
More about University of York
  • News

    New control over topological insulator

    An international team of scientists investigating the electronic properties of ultra-thin films of new materials – topological insulators (TIs) - has demonstrated a new method to tune their unique properties using strain. Topological insulators are new materials with surfaces that host a ne ... more

    Pave the way for more energy efficient technology

    An international team of scientists led by physicists from the University of York has paved the way for a new class of magnetic materials and devices with improved performance and power efficiency. Magnetic materials are currently used to store almost all digital information. However, with ... more

    From surgery to laboratory and back again

    A University of York scientist's experience in seeing his partner in hospital recovering from a double lung transplant prompted him to design and synthesise new chemical agents that could revolutionise post-operative patient care. Professor Dave Smith, of the University's Department of Chem ... more