Biomass Depolymerization projects

Enzyme Discovery in Grass-Feeding Termites for the Depolymerization of Lignocellulosic Biomass - Completed

This project studied enzymes for the depolymerization of C4 grass biomass by looking in the hindgut of the termite, which efficiently transforms plant biomass into sugars, short-chain fatty acids, hydrogen, and methane. The bacteria and archaea living in the termite hindgut do this work, with the host providing a controlled environment and finely chewed plant material to increase the surface area on which microorganisms can act. Hence the system can be viewed as a miniature bioreactor for plant biomass decomposition.

project Highlights

2009 Highlights

Kyrpides’s group performed metagenomic analyses on termite hindgut microbial communities from grass- and cow-dung-feeding termites and a laboratory-kept strain fed on dry wood. They found that the glycoside hydrolase (GH) catalytic domains and carbohydrate binding modules of termite species were distinct from other environments (such as cow gut) that hydrolyze cellulose. In addition, Kyrpides’s team found differences between the microbial communities in dry-wood-feeding and dung-feeding termites. Their findings also indicate that there may not be a direct relationship between which catalytic domains are most highly expressed and those that degrade cellulose most actively.



Published in 2010

Validation of Two Ribosomal RNA Removal Methods for Microbial Metatranscriptomics, Shaomei He, Omri Wurtzel, Kanwar Singh, Jeff Froula, Susan Yilmaz, Susannah Tringe, Zhong Wang, Feng Chen, Erika Lundquist, Rotem Sorek and Phillip Hugenholtz, Nature Methods, 7: 807-812, September 19, 2010.



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