Development of Enzymes for use in Lignocellulose Processing
Systematic forest clearing of underbrush and small-diameter timber is desirable to decrease the severity of wildfires. Maximizing the value of this low-value biomass is necessary to offset the costs associated with this labor-intensive process. Pretreatment schemes that allow for maximum-value yield may increase the value of these lignocellulosic materials. Applying enzymes with defined function in conjunction with alkaline pretreatment schemes may result in hemicellulosic polysaccharides, which may be subsequently processed with enzymes to produce value-added products. One example of such a product is xylan-derived prebiotic sugars, which is a microbiome for human consumption that can be beneficial in maintenance of intestinal health. To further this goal, Forest Service scientists have identified multiple new enzymes that selectively hydrolyze the most abundant hemicellulose xylan in a manor unique compared with other xylan-degrading enzymes. They are studying the function of these enzymes to determine how they may be best applied to the production of value-added products from lignocellulosic biomass.