Critical Enzyme Reactions in Aromatic Catabolism for Microbial Lignin Conversion

Erika Erickson, Alissa Bleem, Eugene Kuatsjah, Allison Werner, Jennifer DuBois, John McGeehan, Lindsay Eltis, Gregg Beckham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus Citations


The application of microbes to valorize aromatic compounds derived from the abundant plant biopolymer lignin is a rapidly developing area of research that may ultimately enable viable conversion of this recalcitrant and heterogeneous resource to valuable bio-based chemical products. Starting from the three canonical lignin building blocks, which differ in the extent of aromatic ring methoxylation, several common classes of enzymatic reaction occur in the upper pathways of aromatic catabolism to prepare aromatic compounds for assimilation into central carbon metabolism, including aromatic O-demethylation, hydroxylation and decarboxylation. These critical enzymatic steps can often be rate-limiting for efficient biological funnelling of aromatic compounds. Here we review the known enzymatic mechanisms for these reactions that are relevant for aerobic aromatic catabolism of lignin-related monomers, highlighting opportunities at the intersection of biochemistry, enzyme engineering and metabolic engineering for applications in the expanding field of microbial lignin valorization. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)86-98
Number of pages13
JournalNature Catalysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Springer Nature Limited.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2A00-80238


  • aromatic catabolism
  • decarboxylation
  • enzyme
  • hydroxylation
  • lignin valorization
  • metabolic engineering
  • O-demethylation


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