UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Limitation of cellulose accessibility and unproductive binding of cellulases by pretreated sugarcane bagasse lignin Siqueira, Germano; Arantes, Valdeir; Saddler, Jack N; Ferraz, André; Milagres, Adriane M F


Background: The effectiveness of the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose in plant cell wall is strongly influenced by the access of enzymes to cellulose, which is at least in part limited by the presence of lignin. Although physicochemical treatments preceding the enzymatic catalysis significantly overcome this recalcitrance, the residual lignin can still play a role in the process. Lignin is suggested to act as a barrier, hindering cellulose and limiting the access of the enzymes. It can also unspecifically bind cellulases, reducing the amount of enzymes available to act on cellulose. However, the limiting role of the lignin present in pretreated sugarcane bagasses has not been fully understood yet. Results: A set of sugarcane bagasses pretreated by five leading pretreatment technologies was created and used to assess their accessibility and the unproductive binding capacity of the resulting lignins. Steam explosion and alkaline sulfite pretreatments resulted in more accessible substrates, with approximately 90% of the cellulose hydrolyzed using high enzyme loadings. Enzymatic hydrolysis of alkaline-treated (NaOH) and steam-exploded sugarcane bagasses were strongly affected by unproductive binding at the lowest enzyme loading tested. Analysis of the extracted lignins confirmed the superior binding capacity of these lignins. Sulfite-based pretreatments (alkaline sulfite and acid sulfite) resulted in lignins with lower binding capacities compared to the analogue pretreatments without sulfite (alkaline and acidic). Strong acid groups present in sulfite-based pretreated substrates, attributed to sulfonated lignins, corroborated the lower binding capacities of the lignin present in these substrates. A more advanced enzyme preparation (Cellic CTec3) was shown to be less affected by unproductive binding at low enzyme loading. Conclusions: Pretreatments that increase the accessibility and modify the lignin are necessary in order to decrease the protein binding capacity. The search for the called weak lignin-binding enzymes is of major importance if hydrolysis with low enzyme loadings is the goal for economically viable processes.

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