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Quantitative investigation of non-hydrolytic disruptive activity on crystalline cellulose and application to recombinant swollenin


For the efficient degradation and bioconversion of cellulosic biomass, it is important to efficiently disrupt and convert crystalline regions of cellulose into easily hydrolyzable regions than to simply hydrolyze cellulose. Expansin-like proteins such as swollenins have disruptive functions on lignocellulose, including crystalline cellulose, via non-hydrolytic mechanisms. In this work, we produced the swollenin from Trichoderma asperellum in Escherichia coli. The recombinant protein was then refolded into the bioactive form with simultaneous purification via a novel cellulose-assisted process. We devised a novel, simple, and efficient method to quantitatively determine the non-hydrolytic disruptive activity of swollenin on crystalline cellulose. This method is based on the synergism of the swollenin and the endoglucanase FnCel5A from Fervidobacterium nodosum. The change from crystalline regions into easily hydrolyzable forms, due to non-hydrolytic disruption, might be slight and not easily be observed. However, disrupted regions of cellulose could be hydrolyzed by FnCel5A, and reducing sugars were formed by the synergism. The disruptive function of the swollenin was quantitatively characterized by measuring the release of reducing sugars. These methods and processes will be useful for further research on non-hydrolytic disruptive bioactivities and provide novel approaches for the efficient and economical bioconversion of cellulosic biomass.

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The research has been supported by National Basic Research Program of China (973 program), Natural Science Foundation of China, and Jilin Province Science and Technology Institute of China.

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Correspondence to Yan Feng.

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Wang, Y., Tang, R., Tao, J. et al. Quantitative investigation of non-hydrolytic disruptive activity on crystalline cellulose and application to recombinant swollenin. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 91, 1353–1363 (2011).

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  • Swollenin
  • Cellulose
  • Refolding
  • Non-hydrolytic disruption
  • Synergism
  • Quantitative determination