Role of supramolecular cellulose structures in enzymatic hydrolysis of plant cell walls

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The study of biomass deconstruction by enzymatic hydrolysis has hitherto not focussed on the importance of supramolecular structures of cellulose. In lignocellulose fibres, regions with a different organisation of the microfibrils are present. These regions are called dislocations or slip planes and they are known to be more susceptible to various forms of degradation such as acid hydrolysis. Traditionally the cellulose within these regions has been assumed to be amorphous, but in this study it is shown by use of polarized light microscopy that dislocations are birefringent. This indicates that they have a crystalline organisation. Dislocations may be entry points for endoglucanases. Using a fluorescent labelled endoglucanase combined with confocal fluorescence microscopy, it is shown that the enzyme selectively binds to dislocations during the initial phase of the hydrolysis. Using a commercial cellulase mixture on hydrothermally treated wheat straw, it was found that the fibres were cut into segments corresponding to the sections between the dislocations initially present, as has previously been observed for acid hydrolysis of softwood pulps. The results indicate that dislocations are important during the initial part of enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose. The implications of this phenomenon have not yet been recognized or explored within cellulosic biofuels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)975-983
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ID: 32344990