An Oxidative Enzyme Boosting the Enzymatic Conversion of Recalcitrant Polysaccharides

Science  08 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6001, pp. 219-222
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192231

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Efficient enzymatic conversion of crystalline polysaccharides is crucial for an economically and environmentally sustainable bioeconomy but remains unfavorably inefficient. We describe an enzyme that acts on the surface of crystalline chitin, where it introduces chain breaks and generates oxidized chain ends, thus promoting further degradation by chitinases. This enzymatic activity was discovered and further characterized by using mass spectrometry and chromatographic separation methods to detect oxidized products generated in the absence or presence of H218O or 18O2. There are strong indications that similar enzymes exist that work on cellulose. Our findings not only demonstrate the existence of a hitherto unknown enzyme activity but also provide new avenues toward more efficient enzymatic conversion of biomass.

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