Microbial Enzyme Systems for Biomass Conversion: Emerging Paradigms

Michael E. Himmel, Qi Xu, Yonghua Luo, Shi You Ding, Raphael Lamed, Edward A. Bayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus Citations


The contemporary relevance of biofuels as an attractive replacement for liquid fossil fuels has rekindled global interest in the conversion of cellulosic biomass - the most abundant renewable source of carbon and energy on our planet. In order to achieve efficient systems for such a formidable substrate, we take guidance from the native enzyme systems of the microbes that have evolved to rid the natural environment of plant-derived wastes. These cellulolytic bacteria and fungi employ a diversity of contrasting but complementary mechanisms for the hydrolysis of cellulose and other related complex plant cell wall polysaccharides. This review covers various known microbial approaches for attacking the recalcitrance problem in the conversion of cellulosic biomass to soluble sugars en route to a biofuels-based society.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)323-341
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-270-47674


  • bacteria
  • biofuels
  • cellulosic biomass
  • conversion
  • enzymes
  • fungi
  • microbial
  • sugar


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