The production of nonfood, plant-based biofuels has been limited by the inefficiency and high cost of the enzymes required for their production. However, recent research published in Chemical Science has shed light on a promising solution involving enzymes from fungi.
Lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), which contain copper in addition to the typical carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen found in enzymes, are particularly effective at breaking down organic matter. Although the exact mechanism behind LPMOs has remained unclear, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have used neutron scattering to demonstrate how LPMOs bind oxygen to copper to break down biomass. Moreover, they have discovered that this process is facilitated by an amino acid that donates protons to the oxygen molecule.
According to Flora Meilleur, the corresponding author at ORNL, this newfound understanding can enable researchers to design and test different versions of LPMOs with greater efficiency. This development could help make cellulosic ethanol a more viable option for biofuel production.
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory