Navigation Links
Iowa State researcher studies how enzymes break down cellulose
Date:1/30/2008

AMES, Iowa Peter Reilly pointed to the framed journal covers decorating his office.

Each of the six showed the swirling, twisting, complicated structure of an enzyme. Those bright and colorful illustrations are the work of his lab. And theyre part of Reillys work to understand how the structure of an enzyme influences its mechanism and its activity.

In other words, hes trying to figure out how is it that these things work, said Reilly, a professor of chemical and biological engineering and an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Iowa State University.

Thats important because enzymes do a lot for all of us.

Enzymes are proteins produced by living organisms that accelerate chemical reactions. They, for example, work inside the human digestive system to break starch or protein molecules into smaller pieces that can be absorbed by the intestines. Enzymes are also used to produce bread, theyre added to detergents to clean stains and theyre used to treat leather. And because enzymes break down cellulose into simple sugars that can be fermented into alcohol, theyre a big part of producing ethanol from cellulose.

Reilly is particularly interested in the enzymes that work on cellulose. He has a three-year, $306,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a basic understanding of how they work.

Those enzymes are known as cellulases. Theyre commonly produced by fungi and bacteria. And theyve got a very hard job.

Cellulose is tough stuff. Its in the cell walls of plants. Its what gives a plant its structure.

Its why trees stand up, Reilly said.

He also said, Nature has done its best to break down cellulose.

So different enzymes have developed different ways of attacking cellulose.

One enzyme Reilly has studied and illustrated a cellobiohydrolase enzyme has an extension that works like a little plow. It rips up one cellulose chain from a cellulose crystal and feeds it into a tunnel on the main enzyme surface so that it can be chopped up.

Reilly, who cant resist a lesson in biochemistry, likes to explain how enzymes attack and break chemical bonds. Hell display diagrams on his office computer that show the bonds in cellulose molecules. Hell point out where enzymes attack some of those bonds. Hell say the chemical reactions create high-energy transition states that scientists are working hard to understand. And hell get back to the bottom line.

These different enzymes all do the same thing, Reilly said. They all break down bonds between the sugars that make up cellulose.

And, he said, For something thats not alive, enzymes are awfully sophisticated.

Reillys students use a lot of computing power to figure out how enzymes are put together. They routinely work with CyBlue, Iowa States supercomputer capable of 5.7 trillion calculations per second, and Lightning, an Iowa State high-performance computer capable of 1.8 trillion calculations per second.

By adding to the basic understanding of enzymes, Reilly is opening doors for new and better applications of enzymes. Better enzymes, for example, could be the key to making the production of cellulosic ethanol more efficient and more economical.

Theres still a lot for chemical engineers to learn about the specialized proteins.

After all, Reilly said, Nature has tried over and over to find ways to break down cellulose.


'/>"/>

Contact: Peter Reilly
reilly@iastate.edu
515-294-5968
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. After more than 100 years apart, webworms devastate New Zealand parsnips
2. Nanomedicine research for prostate cancer supported by $5 million gift
3. GM, Coskata partnership builds on Oklahoma State University biofuels research
4. Mongolian paleontologists with a dream come to Montana State University
5. Montana State University researcher finds renewed interest in turning algae into fuel
6. Iowa State researchers look for smaller, cheaper, 1-dose vaccines
7. Ingram Micro to Distribute New Fujitsu Biometric Login Products for Novell eDirectory in United States
8. LSU and Ohio State battle on football field, collaborate in research field
9. Poor Americans in the United States suffer hidden burden of parasitic and other neglected diseases
10. Emory, Ohio State launch partnership in predictive and personalized health care
11. Tiny dust particles from Asian deserts common over western United States
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Iowa State researcher studies how enzymes break down cellulose
(Date:2/4/2016)... LONDON , Feb. 4, 2016 ... is apparently one of the most popular hubs ... Project, MetaHIT and other huge studies of human ... that past few years, the microbiome space has ... applied biomedical research. This report focuses on ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... --> --> ... Fingerprint Identification System Market by Component (Hardware and Software), ... Finance, Government, Healthcare, and Transportation) and Geography - Global ... expected to be worth USD 8.49 Billion by 2020 ... 2020. The transformation and technology evolution from the manual ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... , Feb. 3, 2016 ... the addition of the "Emotion Detection ... Machine Learning, and Others), Software Tools (Facial ... Areas, End Users,and Regions - Global forecast ... --> http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/d8zjcd/emotion_detection ) has ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/8/2016)... DURHAM, N.C. , Feb. 8, 2016 Novan, Inc. ... named Chairman of the Board of Directors of Novan. In addition, ... Directors. North Carolina . ... The Company also announced that it received a total of $32.8 ... December 2015 from its private investor network originating throughout the Research ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... , Feb. 8, 2016  BioElectronics Corporation ... medical devices, announced today that it is responding ... proceedings from the Securities and Exchange Commission posted ... Staelin , Chairman of the Board of BioElectronics ... of Business Administration at The Fuqua School of ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... ... ... Bulk food product inspection systems are specifically designed to ... production process. Despite frequently inspecting loose product prior to packaging, product inspection systems ... of dry powders. , Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection's brand-new white paper entitled "Improving Food ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... (NYSE MKT: NNVC) (the "Company"), a nanomedicine company developing anti-viral drugs, ... present information about the company,s programs at the BIOCEO conference today ... City . --> --> ... Registered attendees can request a one on one meeting through the conference ... --> New York City . --> ...
Breaking Biology Technology: