Biotech Updates

Genome Sequence of a Biomass Degrading Fungus

May 9, 2008

The fungus Trichoderma reesei is the main industrial source of enzymes used to convert sugars to chemical intermediates and biofuels, such as ethanol. A group of international scientists have deciphered the complete genome sequence of the fungus. The information derived from the genome will accelerate efforts to reduce the currently high cost of converting biomass (lignocellulosic materials) to fermentable sugar.

The genome consists of 34 million nucleotide base pairs. However, the research team found out that the genome encodes fewer cellulases and hemicellulases than any other sequenced fungus able to hydrolyze plant cell wall polysaccharides. The team also observed clustering of carbohydrate-active enzyme genes, which suggested a specific biological role: polysaccharide degradation.

Improved enzyme cocktails from Trichoderma and other polymer-hydrolyzing fungi will enable more economical conversion of biomass from such feedstocks as perennial grasses, woods, agricultural crop residues and municipal wastes.

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