Biotechnology for biofuels

Harnessing the potential of LPMO-containing cellulase cocktails poses new demands on processing conditions.

PMID 26609322


The emerging bioeconomy depends on improved methods for processing of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals. Saccharification of lignocellulose to fermentable sugars is a key step in this regard where enzymatic catalysis plays an important role and is a major cost driver. Traditionally, enzyme cocktails for the conversion of cellulose to fermentable sugars mainly consisted of hydrolytic cellulases. However, the recent discovery of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), which cleave cellulose using molecular oxygen and an electron donor, has provided new tools for biomass saccharification. Current commercial enzyme cocktails contain LPMOs, which, considering the unique properties of these enzymes, may change optimal processing conditions. Here, we show that such modern cellulase cocktails release up to 60 % more glucose from a pretreated lignocellulosic substrate under aerobic conditions compared to anaerobic conditions. This higher yield correlates with the accumulation of oxidized products, which is a signature of LPMO activity. Spiking traditional cellulase cocktails with LPMOs led to increased saccharification yields, but only under aerobic conditions. LPMO activity on pure cellulose depended on the addition of an external electron donor, whereas this was not required for LPMO activity on lignocellulose. In this study, we demonstrate a direct correlation between saccharification yield and LPMO activity of commercial enzyme cocktails. Importantly, we show that the LPMO contribution to overall efficiency may be large if process conditions are adapted to the key determinants of LPMO activity, namely the presence of electron donors and molecular oxygen. Thus, the advent of LPMOs has a great potential, but requires rethinking of industrial bioprocessing procedures.