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Lignin valorization through integrated biological funneling and chemical catalysis.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2014-08-06)
Jeffrey G Linger, Derek R Vardon, Michael T Guarnieri, Eric M Karp, Glendon B Hunsinger, Mary Ann Franden, Christopher W Johnson, Gina Chupka, Timothy J Strathmann, Philip T Pienkos, Gregg T Beckham
ABSTRACT

Lignin is an energy-dense, heterogeneous polymer comprised of phenylpropanoid monomers used by plants for structure, water transport, and defense, and it is the second most abundant biopolymer on Earth after cellulose. In production of fuels and chemicals from biomass, lignin is typically underused as a feedstock and burned for process heat because its inherent heterogeneity and recalcitrance make it difficult to selectively valorize. In nature, however, some organisms have evolved metabolic pathways that enable the utilization of lignin-derived aromatic molecules as carbon sources. Aromatic catabolism typically occurs via upper pathways that act as a "biological funnel" to convert heterogeneous substrates to central intermediates, such as protocatechuate or catechol. These intermediates undergo ring cleavage and are further converted via the β-ketoadipate pathway to central carbon metabolism. Here, we use a natural aromatic-catabolizing organism, Pseudomonas putida KT2440, to demonstrate that these aromatic metabolic pathways can be used to convert both aromatic model compounds and heterogeneous, lignin-enriched streams derived from pilot-scale biomass pretreatment into medium chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoates (mcl-PHAs). mcl-PHAs were then isolated from the cells and demonstrated to be similar in physicochemical properties to conventional carbohydrate-derived mcl-PHAs, which have applications as bioplastics. In a further demonstration of their utility, mcl-PHAs were catalytically converted to both chemical precursors and fuel-range hydrocarbons. Overall, this work demonstrates that the use of aromatic catabolic pathways enables an approach to valorize lignin by overcoming its inherent heterogeneity to produce fuels, chemicals, and materials.

MATERIALS
Product Number
Brand
Product Description

Sigma-Aldrich
Ammonium perrhenate, ≥99%
Sigma-Aldrich
Ammonium perrhenate, 99.999% trace metals basis