Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unlocking the power of wood

22.03.2010
A ‘family’ tree of enzymes from protists in the termite gut may help boost biofuels research

Wood-derived biomass offers a promising source for cellulose-based fuels, but efforts to exploit this energy have been thwarted by the need for methods to deal with a component of the plant cell wall that binds cellulose and interferes with enzymatic processing.

Termites have developed a natural workaround for this problem. Over the course of evolution, the various ‘lower termite’ species have formed an essential partnership with bacteria and protists dwelling within their gut, these derive support from their termite hosts and in turn facilitate the digestion of the insects’ woody diet.

Glycosyl hydrolase family (GHF) enzymes produced by these symbionts are a key component in the cellulose digestion process, enabling efficient cellulose processing without the need for lignin breakdown. “Some of the enzymes that we have found have more than 10-fold higher activity than current industrial enzymes,” says Shigeharu Moriya of the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako. Since 2001, Moriya and colleagues have been working to characterize these enzymes, and they have now published their analysis of the various GHFs expressed within the gut protist communities of four lower termite species as well as a related wood-eating cockroach1.

These protists are exceptionally challenging to culture and analyze individually, but can be characterized collectively via ‘metagenomic’ techniques that make it possible to assemble massive gene catalogues from a diverse mixture of cell types. This approach revealed a total of 154 clones representing variants of five different GHFs, and the researchers used this sequence data to assemble a phylogenetic tree—essentially a detailed timeline of the evolutionary history of these genes.

GHF5 and 7 were represented in every termite symbiont community investigated, suggesting that their evolution either precedes or coincides with the emergence of termite–protist symbiosis. Interestingly, the data suggest that GHF5 may have been initially acquired by protists from bacteria over the course of one or more ancient gene transfer events. GHF7, on the other hand, appears to have evolved specifically within protists.

The other three enzyme classes—GHF10, 11 and 45—are less broadly conserved, and the author speculate that they provide support for the core GHF5–GHF7 cellulose degradation machinery. “This system is well conserved among various termites, and it may be composed of high-performance enzymes,” says Moriya. His team is now partnering with other RIKEN teams to develop novel techniques for characterizing the metabolic pathways of these protist communities in an effort to identify additional factors that expedite biomass processing.

The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the Biosphere Oriented Biology Research Unit, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute

Journal information

1. Todaka, N., Inoue, T., Saita, K., Ohkuma, M., Nalepa, C.A., Lenz, M., Kudo, T. & Moriya, S. Phylogenetic analysis of cellulolytic enzyme genes from representative lineages of termites and a related cockroach. PLoS ONE 5, e8636 (2010)

Saeko Okada | Research asia research news
Further information:
http://www.rikenresearch.riken.jp/eng/research/6214
http://www.researchsea.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood
23.02.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht New Mechanisms of Gene Inactivation may prevent Aging and Cancer
23.02.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'

23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field

23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood

23.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>