Lignocellulose Degradation Mechanisms Across the Tree of Life

Gregg Beckham, Simon Cragg, Neil Bruce, Timothy Bugg, Daniel Distel, Paul Dupree, Amaia Etxabe, Barry Goodell, Jody Jellison, John McGeehan, Simon McQueen-Mason, Kirk Schnorr, Paul Walton, Joy Watts, Martin Zimmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

419 Scopus Citations


Organisms use diverse mechanisms involving multiple complementary enzymes, particularly glycoside hydrolases (GHs), to deconstruct lignocellulose. Lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs) produced by bacteria and fungi facilitate deconstruction as does the Fenton chemistry of brown-rot fungi. Lignin depolymerisation is achieved by white-rot fungi and certain bacteria, using peroxidases and laccases. Meta-omics is now revealing the complexity of prokaryotic degradative activity in lignocellulose-rich environments. Protists from termite guts and some oomycetes produce multiple lignocellulolytic enzymes. Lignocellulose-consuming animals secrete some GHs, but most harbour a diverse enzyme-secreting gut microflora in a mutualism that is particularly complex in termites. Shipworms however, house GH-secreting and LPMO-secreting bacteria separate from the site of digestion and the isopod Limnoria relies on endogenous enzymes alone. The omics revolution is identifying many novel enzymes and paradigms for biomass deconstruction, but more emphasis on function is required, particularly for enzyme cocktails, in which LPMOs may play an important role.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)108-119
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-65549


  • biomass deconstruction
  • lignin depolymerisation
  • lignocellulolytic enzymes
  • lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases
  • Olympics


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