Streptomyces Bacteria to Break Down Cellulose

Some very exciting breakthroughs have been made recently in using fungii and sugars to break through tough wood cellulose cell walls and access the abundant energy inside to make various types of fuel.

New research carried out on a specific group of bacteria known as Streptomyces shows how certain bacterial strains developed improved abilities to breakdown cellulose, according to AZO Clean Tech June 10. This research also highlights more effective methods by which we could imitate those capabilities to generate fuel from unused plant material.

A group of unique microorganisms handles the meticulous deconstruction of cellulose, which is an important structural constituent of plant cell walls and an organic compound that is abundantly available on land. Fungi growing on decomposing plants as well as bacteria in animals’ guts, in the soil, and working together with in- sects, also do the job just as well.

Streptomyces Bacteria to Break Down Cellulose

These specific enzyme combinations make the re- search beneficial to researchers focused on biofuels. Usually, biofuels are produced from the sugars extracted from the edible parts of the plant.

In the case of cellulose, a world of specialized microbes handles this careful deconstruction. Much of that work is done by fungi growing on decaying plants, but bacteria in the soil, in the guts of animals like cows and working alongside insects,

Streptomyces and other evolving microorganisms have been honing the way they exploit parts of the plants almost as long as the latter themselves have been growing on the land i.e. many millions of years ago. The Streptomyces study was sponsored by the Department of Energy’s UW–Madison-based Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

The key enzymes and new groups of enzymes, which are formed when Streptomyces flex specific genes, were identified by this study. The action of the micro-organisms would turn out to be a great boon for bioenergy production if they improve over present industrial processes.

The successful Streptomyces strains—which were typically those found living in communities with insects— ramp up production of certain enzymes, the proteins that do the cleaving and dissolving and picking apart of cellulose.