US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Franz St. John

Franz St. John

Research Microbiologist

Phone: 608-231-9438
Contact Franz St. John

Current Research

Research in my laboratory focuses on the interface between the physical disruption and the subsequent enzyme hydrolysis stages necessary to prepare woody biomass for microbial conversion to biofuels and value-added products. Our guiding hypothesis is that through the development of better, more efficient enzyme systems, it may be possible to limit the chemical and physical input required during the initial disruption stage resulting in a reduced cost for microbial bioconversions of this important renewable resource.In this research our primary concern is the second most abundant but chemically most complex biomass polymer, the β-1,4 linked xylose polysaccharide 4-O-methyl glucuronoarabinoxylan (xylan). This polymer is important in that it associates through covalent attachment to interconnect the lignified cell wall with the rigid cellulose fibrils. The pretreatment process may be augmented with enzymes that target the specific linkages connecting lignin and xylan thereby facilitating the secondary cellulolytic enzyme processing and potentially limiting the initial physical pretreatment costs. Our research applies bacteriology, biochemistry, bioinformatic resources as well as structural biology to identify proteins which may function optimally to degrade minimally processed lignocellulosic biomass.A second goal of my laboratory is the development of second generation bacterial biocatalysts. Initial efforts will focus on defining and characterizing Gram positive bacterial characteristics that show promise in bioconversion processes. Examples of such characteristics include robust protein secretion and the potential of many Gram positive bacteria to transport complex oligosaccharides. Understanding how such physiological features function and how they can be employed in bacterial biocatalysts is of great value to the development of engineered biocatalyst.

Research Interests

  • Microbiology and enzymology of lignocellulose bioconversion
  • X-ray crystallographic protein structure studies of enzymes involved in biomass degradation
  • Development of second generation bacterial biocatalysts with enhanced capabilities of protein secretion and complex carbohydrate utilization


  • University of Maryland, Baltimore, Postdoctoral Fellowship X-ray Crystallography Core Facility 2009
  • University of Florida, Ph.D. Microbiology and Cell Science 2006
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, B.S. University of Florida, Gainesville 1999

Professional Organizations

  • American Society for Microbiology, Member



Research Highlights


Characterization of Microbial Biocatalysts in Lignocellulosic Utilization

Bioconversion of lignocellulosic biomass would benefit from development of second generation bacterial biocatalysts. The bacterium Paenibacillus ...


Development of Enzymes for use in Lignocellulose Processing

The ultimate best use of lignocellulose allows for the selective extraction of defined value streams. To facilitate this, Forest Service researc ...


Enzymatic conversion of xylan into valuable products.

Xylan represents a vast store of potential value but rather than seeing beneficial use, much of this reservoir is lost in catastrophic wildfires ...


Protein Structure and Biochemical Characterization of a Novel Functioning Xylanase

Scientists identified and characterized a xylanase with unique function that may have applications in processing of woody biomass substrate.


Researchers Determine the Structure of Bacterial Protein Involved in Biomass Conversion

Researchers structurally characterized a bacterial protein involved in biomass degradation. The knowledge obtained from this novel protein sugge ...


Last updated on : 09/21/2020