We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.

Advertisement
Biofuel Production Gets a Helping Hand From Termite Gut Microbes
News

Biofuel Production Gets a Helping Hand From Termite Gut Microbes

Biofuel Production Gets a Helping Hand From Termite Gut Microbes
News

Biofuel Production Gets a Helping Hand From Termite Gut Microbes

Credit: Глеб Коровко/ Pexels
Read time:
 

Want a FREE PDF version of This News Story?

Complete the form below and we will email you a PDF version of "Biofuel Production Gets a Helping Hand From Termite Gut Microbes"

First Name*
Last Name*
Email Address*
Country*
Company Type*
Job Function*
Would you like to receive further email communication from Technology Networks?

Technology Networks Ltd. needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy

Wheat straw, the dried stalks left over from grain production, is a potential source of biofuels and commodity chemicals. But before straw can be converted to useful products by biorefineries, the polymers that make it up must be broken down into their building blocks. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering have found that microbes from the guts of certain termite species can help break down lignin, a particularly tough polymer in straw.

In straw and other dried plant material, the three main polymers –– cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin –– are interwoven into a complex 3D structure. The first two polymers are polysaccharides, which can be broken down into sugars and then converted to fuel in bioreactors. Lignin, on the other hand, is an aromatic polymer that can be converted to useful industrial chemicals. Enzymes from fungi can degrade lignin, which is the toughest of the three polymers to break down, but scientists are searching for bacterial enzymes that are easier to produce. In previous research, Guillermina Hernandez-Raquet and colleagues had shown that gut microbes from four termite species could degrade lignin in anaerobic bioreactors. Now, in a collaboration with Yuki Tobimatsu and Mirjam Kabel, they wanted to take a closer look at the process by which microbes from the wood-eating insects degrade lignin in wheat straw, and identify the modifications they make to this material.

The researchers added 500 guts from each of four higher termite species to separate anaerobic bioreactors and then added wheat straw as the sole carbon source. After 20 days, they compared the composition of the digested straw to that of untreated straw. All of the gut microbiomes degraded lignin (up to 37%), although they were more efficient at breaking down hemicelluloses (51%) and cellulose (41%). Lignin remaining in the straw had undergone chemical and structural changes, such as oxidation of some of its subunits. The researchers hypothesized that the efficient degradation of hemicelluloses by the microbes could have also increased the degradation of lignin that is cross-linked to the polysaccharides. In future work, the team wants to identify the microorganisms, enzymes and lignin degradation pathways responsible for these effects, which could find applications in lignocellulose biorefineries.

Reference: Dumond L, Lam PY, van Erven G, et al. Termite gut microbiota contribution to wheat straw delignification in anaerobic bioreactors. ACS Sustainable Chem Eng. 2021;9(5):2191-2202. doi: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.0c07817

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Advertisement