Comparative Performance of Precommercial Cellulases Hydrolyzing Pretreated Corn Stover

James D. McMillan, Edward W. Jennings, Ali Mohagheghi, Mildred Zuccarello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus Citations


Background: Cellulases and related hydrolytic enzymes represent a key cost factor for biochemical conversion of cellulosic biomass feedstocks to sugars for biofuels and chemicals production. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is cost sharing projects to decrease the cost of enzymes for biomass saccharification. The performance of benchmark cellulase preparations produced by Danisco, DSM, Novozymes and Verenium to convert pretreated corn stover (PCS) cellulose to glucose was evaluated under common experimental conditions and is reported here in a non-attributed manner. Results: Two hydrolysis modes were examined, enzymatic hydrolysis (EH) of PCS whole slurry or washed PCS solids at pH 5 and 50°C, and simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) of washed PCS solids at pH 5 and 38°C. Enzymes were dosed on a total protein mass basis, with protein quantified using both the bicinchoninic acid (BCA) assay and the Bradford assay. Substantial differences were observed in absolute cellulose to glucose conversion performance levels under the conditions tested. Higher cellulose conversion yields were obtained using washed solids compared to whole slurry, and estimated enzyme protein dosages required to achieve a particular cellulose conversion to glucose yield were extremely dependent on the protein assay used. All four enzyme systems achieved glucose yields of 90% of theoretical or higher in SSF mode. Glucose yields were reduced in EH mode, with all enzymes achieving glucose yields of at least 85% of theoretical on washed PCS solids and 75% in PCS whole slurry. One of the enzyme systems ('enzyme B') exhibited the best overall performance. However in attaining high conversion yields at lower total enzyme protein loadings, the relative and rank ordered performance of the enzyme systems varied significantly depending upon which hydrolysis mode and protein assay were used as the basis for comparison. Conclusions: This study provides extensive information about the performance of four precommercial cellulase preparations. Though test conditions were not necessarily optimal for some of the enzymes, all were able to effectively saccharify PCS cellulose. Large differences in the estimated enzyme dosage requirements depending on the assay used to measure protein concentration highlight the need for better consensus methods to quantify enzyme protein.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number29
Number of pages17
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
StatePublished - 2011

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-51759


  • biochemical conversion
  • biomass to biofuels
  • cellulases


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