In Search of Enzymes for Biofuel Production


Some microbes contain enzymes that can break down lignocellulosic biomass, such as that found in switchgrass or Miscanthus. But there are few suitable methods for finding these enzymes in complex microbial communities. Researchers at the DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new method that uses nanostructure initiator mass spectroscopy (NIMS). It enables rapid and accurate characterization of enzymes in complex microbial and environmental samples (e.g., microbial compost). Using this new technology, JBEI researchers have characterized a broad range of environmental and purified microbial samples, further optimizing selected samples for enzymatic activity and stability in the presence of ionic liquids, which are being tested by JBEI for use in biofuel production. This new NIMS-based approach may aid in finding more efficient ways to convert biomass into lignocellulosic biofuels.


Reindl, W., K. Deng, J. M. Gladden, G. Cheng, A. Wong, S. W. Singer, S. Singh, J.-C. Lee, C.-H. Yao, T. C. Hazen, A. K. Singh, B. A. Simmons, P. D. Adams, and T. R. Northen. 2011. “Colloid-Based Multiplexed Screening for Plant Biomass-Degrading Glycoside Hydrolase Activities in Microbial Communities,” Energy and Environmental Science 4, 2884–93. DOI: 10.1039/c1ee01112j.