Navigation Links
Termites' digestive system could act as biofuel refinery
Date:7/5/2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - One of the peskiest household pests, while disastrous to homes, could prove to be a boon for cars, according to a Purdue University study.

Mike Scharf, the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology, said his laboratory has discovered a cocktail of enzymes from the guts of termites that may be better at getting around the barriers that inhibit fuel production from woody biomass. The Scharf Laboratory found that enzymes in termite guts are instrumental in the insects' ability to break down the wood they eat.

The findings, published in the early online version of the journal PLoS One, are the first to measure the sugar output from enzymes created by the termites themselves and the output from symbionts, small protozoa that live in termite guts and aid in digestion of woody material.

"For the most part, people have overlooked the host termite as a source of enzymes that could be used in the production of biofuels. For a long time it was thought that the symbionts were solely responsible for digestion," Scharf said. "Certainly the symbionts do a lot, but what we've shown is that the host produces enzymes that work in synergy with the enzymes produced by those symbionts. When you combine the functions of the host enzymes with the symbionts, it's like one plus one equals four."

Scharf and his research partners separated the termite guts, testing portions that did and did not contain symbionts on sawdust to measure the sugars created.

Once the enzymes were identified, Scharf and his team worked with Chesapeake Perl, a protein production company in Maryland, to create synthetic versions. The genes responsible for creating the enzymes were inserted into a virus and fed to caterpillars, which then produce large amounts of the enzymes. Tests showed that the synthetic versions of the host termite enzymes also were very effective at releasing sugar from the biomass.

They found that the three synthetic enzymes function on different parts of the biomass.

Two enzymes are responsible for the release of glucose and pentose, two different sugars. The other enzyme breaks down lignin, the rigid compound that makes up plant cell walls.

Lignin is one of the most significant barriers that blocks the access to sugars contained in biomass. Scharf said it's possible that the enzymes derived from termites and their symbionts, as well as synthetic versions, could be more effective at removing that lignin barrier.

Sugars from plant material are essential to creating biofuels. Those sugars are fermented to make products such as ethanol.

"We've found a cocktail of enzymes that create sugars from wood," Scharf said. "We were also able to see for the first time that the host and the symbionts can synergistically produce these sugars."

Next, Scharf said his laboratory and collaborators would work on identifying the symbiont enzymes that could be combined with termite enzymes to release the greatest amount of sugars from woody material. Combining those enzymes would increase the amount of biofuel that should be available from biomass.


'/>"/>

Contact: Brian Wallheimer
bwallhei@purdue.edu
765-496-2050
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Termites foretell climate change in Africas savannas
2. Dont let your termites grow up to be mommies
3. New assay helps track termites and other insects
4. Diuscovery in amber reveals ancient biology of termites
5. Did termites help Katrina destroy New Orleans floodwalls?
6. Probiotic found in breast milk helps alleviate symptoms of digestive disorders
7. Quickly evolving bacteria could improve digestive health
8. A chaperone system guides tail-anchored membrane proteins to their destined membrane
9. Researchers decipher protein structure of key molecule in DNA transcription system
10. Global plant database set to promote biodiversity research and Earth-system sciences
11. Lockheed Martins HULC™ Robotic Exoskeleton Enters Biomechanical Testing at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Termites' digestive system could act as biofuel refinery
(Date:4/15/2016)... , April 15, 2016  A new partnership ... more accurate underwriting decisions in a fraction of ... competitively priced and high-value life insurance policies to ... With Force Diagnostics, rapid testing (A1C, ... data readings (blood pressure, weight, pulse, BMI, and ...
(Date:4/13/2016)... April 13, 2016  IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients ... a new clinical standard in telehealth thanks to a ... the higi platform, IMPOWER patients can routinely track key ... body mass index, and, when they opt in, share ... visit to a local retail location at no cost. ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... BOCA RATON, Florida , March 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... ("LegacyXChange" or the "Company") LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect ... Synthetic DNA in ink used in a variety of ... preventing theft. Buyers of originally created collectibles from athletes ... authenticity through forensic analysis of the DNA. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/3/2016)... CO (PRWEB) , ... May 03, 2016 , ... ... , announced the addition of Dr. Nancy Gillett to its Board of Directors. ... position, she served as Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer. A ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... ... May 03, 2016 , ... Wearable Tech + ... conferences, will take place on June 7-8, 2016, at the New York Academy of ... incorporating technology -- including AR/VR, machine learning, apps, robotics and AI -- throughout a ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... Texas , May 3, 2016  Dr. ... plastic surgeon in The Woodlands, Texas ... destroys 24 percent of treated fat cells in just ... woman. Close to 90 percent of Americans report feeling ... options. Nonsurgical fat reduction procedures are a growing industry. ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... , ... May 03, 2016 , ... ... fertility clinics and IVF laboratories. A contingency of reproductive endocrinologists, including Dr. ... and women experiencing infertility and to help them build families. , Ovation Fertility ...
Breaking Biology Technology: