DOE engineers new enzyme

By | February 09, 2010
Scientists at the U.S. DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory have engineered an enzyme to aid in the conversion of plant material into cellulosic ethanol. The enzyme breaks down lignin in a plant's cell walls. Biochemist Chang-Jun Liu, whose work has focused on lignin alteration, said the ultimate goal is to apply the enzyme to feedstocks, making the plants more easily digested and fermentable. Liu's team compared the genetic code of the new enzyme with information from enzymes involved in lignin synthesis to build the new model. Liu said Brookhaven's engineered enzyme is "totally changed," adding that the team still needs time to determine how the enzyme will affect lignin biosynthesis.