In Brazil, missing piece of the puzzle to achieving second-generation ethanol from sugarcane bagasse is saccharification – saccharification meaning the process by which complex sugars called polysaccharides are depolymerized and broken down into simple soluble sugars. This would be achieved through composing the proper enzyme cocktail and consequently assembling an industrial-scale microbial platform for the production of these enzymes.
An important step in overcoming this challenge has been given through the discovery of microorganisms living in the Brazilian Amazon that produce an enzyme of key significance to the success of the undertaking.
The enzyme has been isolated, characterized and reproduced, proving to be compatible with two essential stages of the production of second-generation ethanol: fermentation and saccharification. If these two stages can be performed simultaneously, the sugar and ethanol industry will cut its costs substantially because a single reactor can be used for all processes involved, economizing on reagents.
The study involved researchers at Brazil’s National Energy & Materials Research Center (CNPEM), Petrobras, the University of São Paulo (USP), and the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), also in São Paulo State, and was supported by the Sao Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP. An article by the research team has been published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Proteins and Proteomics.