It sounds like a dream vacation: hang out in hot springs all day, converting sugar to alcohol. But that’s precisely what researchers are looking for in microbes to more efficiently break down plant matter into fermentable sugars for biofuel. And they found it in Dictyoglomus turgidum, in samples from Obsidian Hot Spring in Yellowstone National Park and remote hot springs in the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula. The DOE JGI sequenced the bacteria’s genome in a project started in 2005.
Owing to the DOE JGI’s and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center’s contributions, biotech company C5•6 will receive a patent this summer for the heat resistant enzyme that powers the deconstructive capability of D. turgidum, GLBRC announced.
C5•6 plans to deploy the novel enzyme in biomass processing for biofuel production where leftover plant material is heated up to high temperatures to weaken the polymers that hold the cell walls together. Most enzymes that break down polysaccharides are inactivated over 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but D. turgidum’s performs up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. What’s more, this enzyme deconstructs a variety of sugar-rich plant materials, possibly simplifying the cocktail of enzymes needed to break down different polymers.