Alkaline Active Hemicellulases

Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series (ABE, volume 172)


Xylan and mannan are the two most abundant hemicelluloses, and enzymes that modify these polysaccharides are prominent hemicellulases with immense biotechnological importance. Among these enzymes, xylanases and mannanases which play the vital role in the hydrolysis of xylan and mannan, respectively, attracted a great deal of interest. These hemicellulases have got applications in food, feed, bioethanol, pulp and paper, chemical, and beverage producing industries as well as in biorefineries and environmental biotechnology. The great majority of the enzymes used in these applications are optimally active in mildly acidic to neutral range. However, in recent years, alkaline active enzymes have also become increasingly important. This is mainly due to some benefits of utilizing alkaline active hemicellulases over that of neutral or acid active enzymes. One of the advantages is that the alkaline active enzymes are most suitable to applications that require high pH such as Kraft pulp delignification, detergent formulation, and cotton bioscouring. The other benefit is related to the better solubility of hemicelluloses at high pH. Since the efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis is often positively correlated to substrate solubility, the hydrolysis of hemicelluloses can be more efficient if performed at high pH. High pH hydrolysis requires the use of alkaline active enzymes. Moreover, alkaline extraction is the most common hemicellulose extraction method, and direct hydrolysis of the alkali-extracted hemicellulose could be of great interest in the valorization of hemicellulose. Direct hydrolysis avoids the time-consuming extensive washing, and neutralization processes required if non-alkaline active enzymes are opted to be used. Furthermore, most alkaline active enzymes are relatively active in a wide range of pH, and at least some of them are significantly or even optimally active in slightly acidic to neutral pH range. Such enzymes can be eligible for non-alkaline applications such as in feed, food, and beverage industries.

This chapter largely focuses on the most important alkaline active hemicellulases, endo-β-1,4-xylanases and β-mannanases. It summarizes the relevant catalytic properties, structural features, as well as the real and potential applications of these remarkable hemicellulases in textile, paper and pulp, detergent, feed, food, and prebiotic producing industries. In addition, the chapter depicts the role of these extremozymes in valorization of hemicelluloses to platform chemicals and alike in biorefineries. It also reviews hemicelluloses and discusses their biotechnological importance.

Graphical Abstract


Alkaliphile Bioethanol Biomass Biorefinery Delignification Enzyme Feed Hemicellulose Hydrolases Mannooligosaccharides Paper and pulp Platform chemicals Prebiotic Waste management Xylooligosaccharides 



Carbohydrate-binding module


Degree of polymerization


Enzyme Commission


Glycoside hydrolase


International Organization for Standardization




Protein Data Bank








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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indienz ABBillebergaSweden

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