PerspectiveChemistry

How to break down crystalline cellulose

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Science  27 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6289, pp. 1050-1051
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8920

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Summary

Biomass-degrading microorganisms use lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase (LPMO) enzymes to help digest cellulose, chitin, and starch. By cleaving otherwise inaccessible crystalline cellulose chains, these enzymes provide access to hydrolytic enzymes. LPMOs are of interest to biotechnology because efficient depolymerization of cellulose is a major bottleneck for the production of biologically based chemicals and fuels. On page 1098 of this issue, Kracher et al. (1) compare LPMO-reducing substrates in fungi from different taxonomic groups and lifestyles, based on both biochemical and genomic evidence. The results provide insights into reductive activation of LPMO that are important for developing more efficient industrial enzymes for lignocellulose biorefineries.