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Breaking down cellulose without blasting lignin
Date:7/14/2011

Eastwood added that the work impacts so many different fields, deciding what to do next is "like being a child in a sweet shop: where do we start?" One application that Jonathan Schilling, a professor at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the project, sees for the Serpula genome is that it can teach bioenergy researchers about improving the process by which plant biomass is converted for biofuel production. "What we have right now with current bioconversion processes often resembles a white rot approach," he said, "attacking lignin to get at carbohydrates and then converting them to fuels, chemicals or paper. The brown rot fungi have somehow circumvented that step to more efficiently get at the cellulose instead of blasting lignin, and it has evolved multiple times in different white rot lineages. This suggests an upgrade in efficiency and we should pay attention." He also said that having a second brown rot genome reference data set, particularly one from such a well-studied fungus that has retained some familiar cellulolytic mechanisms for white rot yet causes a classic brown rot, adds on to the body of knowledge researchers have for the six different lineages of brown rot fungi and their adaptive advantages to white rot fungi.

DOE JGI Fungal Genomics head Igor Grigoriev, a coauthor on the Science paper, noted that having the genome of Serpula means that there are now two white rot and two brown rot genomes available, and a dozen more are in queue. He added there are two variants of Serpula, the one that causes dry rot and one found in coniferous forests, and the DOE JGI has sequenced both. In fact, the Institute's sequencing efforts account for 40 percent of all fungal genomes deposited in the public databases. "This is a step forward into learning more about the processes involved in cellulose degradation," he said. Beyond the interest in understanding how lignocellulose is broken down, though, he said, "overal
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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