BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre: Cell wall sugars programme

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Biochemistry

Abstract

To achieve the goal of producing biofuel from plant biomass (lignocellulose), the plant cell wall can be degraded by a cocktail of hydrolase enzymes that generate monosaccharide sugars (saccharification). Biomass feedstocks are pretreated to increase enzyme accessibility of the cellulose and hemicelluloses prior to addition of the enzyme cocktails. The released sugars are then industrially fermented to generate biofuels such as ethanol and butanol. The viability of lignocellulosic biofuel technology will depend on maximising the fermentable sugar from biomass, and minimising the costs of processing. Currently, it is difficult to use the pentose-rich hemicellulose xylan component which constitutes 20- 30% of most feedstocks such as grass and wood. This xylan impedes enzyme access to the cellulose, in part through links with the lignin. One of the main problems is that it is a branched polymer that is difficult to break down with enzymes. Acid treatments to break up the hemicellulose can generate inhibitors that prevent effective microbial fermentation and reduce the yield of sugars. This programme aims to achieve a better understanding of the genetic control of hemicellulose synthesis, especially the branched xylan component of biomass, and the impact of xylan branching on enzyme accessibility. It will develop a comprehensive characterisation of plant polysaccharide synthesis machinery, and how the synthesis enzymes work together in protein complexes. The programme will also discover and characterise effective enzymes that break down this component to monosaccharides. The programme will deliver enabling technologies for high throughput, detailed, quantitative analysis of biomass hemicelluloses and the activity of the enzymes that break them down. Based on this knowledge, strategies of plant breeding or modification, and also of hydrolytic enzyme selection, will be proposed in order to reduce the costs of use of the branched xylan component of biomass, and to release the cellulose for saccharification. The programme in Cambridge to study cell wall synthesis and to develop the polysaccharide and hydrolase profiling technologies is supported by enzyme discovery in the University of Newcastle, with Dr David Bolam and collaboration with Professor Harry Gilbert. Shell Global Solutions are collaborators in the programme, providing an important industrial perspective and bioinformatic support. Additional enzymes for method development and for analysis of cell wall polysaccharides will be provided and studied in collaboration with Novozymes, the world leader in enzyme production.

Technical Summary

1. We will develop enabling technologies for polysaccharide analysis. The field does not have the methods for high resolution screening, at the level of individual polysaccharide structures, of large populations of plants for natural or induced variation in polysaccharide quality and quantity. We also need to be able to study more precisely the specificity of hydrolytic enzyme actions. Our current techniques of PACE and LC-MS will be extended in scope, robustness and speed in this programme. 2. We will study hemicellulose degradation pathways and novel hydrolytic enzyme action. Enzymes required to remove effectively the extensive sugar decorations on branched xylan are largely unknown. We will discover and study novel debranching enzyme action, assisted by using the new profiling technologies. 3. We will use a systems approach to understanding control of polysaccharide quantity and quality. We will integrate transcriptomic and proteomic data on Golgi polysaccharide synthesis proteins to discover the enzymes, pathways and control of branched xylan and other polysaccharide synthesis. By studying polysaccharides in multiple mutants in a high throughput fashion, using our profiling technologies, we will achieve a broader understanding of polysaccharide function and the control of synthesis. 4. We will assess the consequences, for depolymerisation by the various enzymes, of altering the biosynthesis of specific branched xylan structures. 5. Using the knowledge of biosynthetic pathways, polysaccharide structure and hydrolytic enzyme action, we will propose how to select or generate crop plants with the structure of the branched xylan optimised for maximal potential sugar yield with minimal enzyme input, to ensure maximal degradation and utilisation of the biomass.

Publications

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Anders N (2012) Glycosyl transferases in family 61 mediate arabinofuranosyl transfer onto xylan in grasses. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Busse-Wicher M (2016) Xylan decoration patterns and the plant secondary cell wall molecular architecture. in Biochemical Society transactions

 
Description We developed a better understanding of plant cell wall synthesis and structure. This is, in particular, a revised model of the archietecture of secondary cell walls, such as those in wood and straw.
This can be applied to construction with wood, animal feed, food and dietary fibre, health, and bioenergy.
We also developed methods for better and faster analysis of polysaccharide structure, and enzymes that act on polysaccharides. These methods are in use by industry.
We also discovered, with the Newcastle paired grant, new enzymes that can be used for cell wall xylan degradation, such as in animal feed.
Exploitation Route Preparation of improved enzymes for animal feed by industry, bioenergy production using crop residues and enzymatic hydrolysis.
Faster and better profiling of cell wall content in bioenergy and forage crops.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description Numerous outputs in industry and academia. Enzymes for animal feed production. Enzymes for bioenergy production.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description BBSRC Synthetic biology centre
Amount £12,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2014 
End 06/2019
 
Description EC FP7 SUNLIBB
Amount € 195,802 (EUR)
Funding ID SUNLIBB 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 10/2010 
End 09/2014
 
Description IBCarb Catalyst
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 02/2018
 
Description ISIS
Amount £2,600 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2009 
End 03/2010
 
Description Leverhulme centres for sustainability
Amount £1,300,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 09/2019
 
Description Marine Woodborers
Amount £2,820,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/L001926/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2014 
End 12/2018
 
Description OT Studentship - BBSRC
Amount £95,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/M015432/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2019
 
Description OT Studentship - Novozymes
Amount £10,753 (GBP)
Organisation Novozymes 
Sector Public
Country Denmark
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2019
 
Description Tsinghua-Cambridge-MUT LCEUA
Amount $200,000 (USD)
Organisation Government of China 
Sector Public
Country China
Start 10/2010 
End 09/2016
 
Title DASH- oligosaccharide profiling with DNA capillary sequencer 
Description oligosaccharide profiling with DNA capillary sequencer 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact used in industry for enzyme characterisation 
 
Description Novozymes AS collaboration: Novozymes contributed financially, with enzymes and with expertise and industrial contextual experience. The relationship is valuable and bidirectional. 
Organisation Novozymes
Country Denmark 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have developed a productive relationship with this internationally leading enzymes company that is leading to further grant proposals and to knowledge and techniques used in industry
Collaborator Contribution Provision of enzymes for research, and industrial insight.
Impact Novozymes have files patents on impoving animal feed
 
Title Patent application: CAPILLARY ELECTROPHORESIS OF CARBOHYDRATES 
Description The invention of mobility markers to facilitate analysis of carbohdrates on capillary electrophoresis equipment. 
IP Reference WO2012010851 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
Impact use in industry
 
Title DASHboard 
Description software to facilitate analysis of capillary electrophoresis results (DASH) 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2012 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact used in industry 
 
Company Name Cambridge Glycoscience Ltd 
Description The company develops and markets carbohydrates from plant cell walls, for the food industry 
Year Established 2017 
Impact Too early to have achievements.
Website https://camglyco.com/
 
Description The 6th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology (PCWB2017), China - July 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a talk at the 6th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description 'Glue' that makes plant cell walls strong could hold the key to wooden skyscrapers - Cambridge News Article December 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact ''Glue' that makes plant cell walls strong could hold the key to wooden skyscrapers' Cambridge News article
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/cambridge-breakthrough-could-pave-way-12350285
 
Description 'Glue' that makes plant cell walls strong could hold the key to wooden skyscrapers - Press Release December 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact ''Glue' that makes plant cell walls strong could hold the key to wooden skyscrapers' press release
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/glue-that-makes-plant-cell-walls-strong-could-hold-the-key-to-woo...
 
Description 19th Penn State Plant Symposium - May 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description ACS 2017 CELL Symposium - April 2017 (USA) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a talk at ACS 2017 CELL Symposium
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description BBSRC Bioenergy Dialogue 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Collecting the oppinions of the public on energy research and implementation

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description BBSRC NIBB IBCarb, Cambridge UK - September 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a talk at BBSRC NIBB IBCarb Event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description BSBEC Workshop - April 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Biochemical Society - August 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact International research conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description CBM11 - May 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact international conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description CCRC Workshop - April 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description CU Botanical Gardens Festival of Plants 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of the BSBEC Bioenergy program

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description CU Science Festival 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact "BBSRC BioEnergy Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council" stand

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Cambridge Science Fair 2010 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Science week event, BBSRC stand Bioenergy display

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Cambridge Science Festival, Cambridge UK - March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Particiapated in the Cambridge Science Festical at the Department of Chemistry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cambridge Science fair 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstration of bioenergy to public. One day event. Contribution to BBSRC bioenergy outreach pack.

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Cellulose: new understanding could lead to tailored biofuels - Press Release June 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 'Cellulose: new understanding could lead to tailored biofuels' press release
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cellulose-new-understanding-could-lead-to-tailored-biofuels
 
Description Demonstration at Cambridge Botanical Gardens 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstation as part of 'Festival of Plants'

n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description GRC - July 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact International Gordon research conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description GRC on Cellulosomes - August 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Glycosylation in the Golgi Complex Conference - October 2016 (Naples) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a talk at the Glycosylation in the Golgi Complex conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description IBCarb Workshop - September 2016 (Windsor) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact IBCarb Workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description International Bioenergy Conference - March 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description LBNet Workshop - September 2016 (York) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact LBNet Workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Plant Cell Wall Biology - July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description RRB-9 - June 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description University of Campinas, Brazil - March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a talk at University of Campinas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description University of São Paulo, Sao Carlos, Brazil - March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a talk at University of São Paulo
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description XIIIth Cell Wall Meeting - July 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description XIV Cell Wall Meeting - June 2016 (Crete) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented talk at XIV Cell Wall Meeting Conference - CWM2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016