Background: Enzymatic hydrolysis is a key step in the conversion of lignocellulosic polysaccharides to fermentable sugars for the production of biofuels and high-value chemicals. However, current enzyme preparations from mesophilic fungi are deficient in their thermostability and biomass-hydrolyzing efficiency at high temperatures. Thermophilic fungi represent promising sources of thermostable and highly active enzymes for improving the biomass-to-sugar conversion process. Here we present a comprehensive study on the lignocellulosic biomass-degrading ability and enzyme system of thermophilic fungus Malbranchea cinnamomea N12 and the application of its enzymes in the synergistic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass.
Results: Malbranchea cinnamomea N12 was capable of utilizing untreated wheat straw to produce high levels of xylanases and efficiently degrading lignocellulose under thermophilic conditions. Temporal analysis of the wheat straw-induced secretome revealed that M. cinnamomea N12 successively degraded the lignocellulosic polysaccharides through sequential secretion of enzymes targeting xylan and cellulose. Xylanase-enriched cocktail from M. cinnamomea N12 was more active on native and alkali‑pretreated wheat straw than the commercial xylanases from Trichoderma reesei over temperatures ranging from 40 to 75 °C. Integration of M. cinnamomea N12 enzymes with the commercial cellulase preparation increased the glucose and xylose yields of alkali‑pretreated wheat straw by 32 and 166%, respectively, with pronounced effects at elevated temperature.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated the remarkable xylanase-producing ability and strategy of sequential lignocellulose breakdown of M. cinnamomea N12. A new process for the hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass was proposed, comprising thermophilic enzymolysis by enzymes of M. cinnamomea N12 followed with mesophilic enzymolysis by commercial cellulases. Developing M. cinnamomea N12 as platforms for thermophilic enzyme mixture production will provide new perspectives for improved conversion yields for current biomass saccharification schemes.
Keywords: Hydrolysis; Lignocellulose; Malbranchea cinnamomea; Secretome; Xylanase.