A Specialist Repertoire

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Science  23 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5879, pp. 989
DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5879.989b

Sequencing the genome of the fungus Trichoderma reesei has led to surprising questions about how it degrades biomass efficiently and whether it can be engineered for the commercial production of biofuels. Breaking down lignocellulose in plant cell walls requires cellulases and hemicellulases, but Martinez et al. found that T. reesei harbors fewer genes dedicated to cellulose digestion than do 13 other fungi that digest plant cell walls. Some of these genes are located in clusters, which may reflect a functional organization that allows efficient enzyme production. Moreover, genes encoding the secretory machinery of T. reesei are similar to those of budding yeast, consistent with its extraordinary ability to secrete 100 g of protein per liter. The absence of a wider variety of cellulose- degrading enzymes may be an opportunity to engineer industrial strains of T. reesei for economical processing of biomass feedstocks used in the production of biofuels. — LC

Nat. Biotechnol. 26, 553 (2008).

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