Background: Lignocellulosic biomass from softwood represents a valuable resource for the production of biofuels and bio-based materials as alternatives to traditional pulp and paper products. Hemicelluloses constitute an extremely heterogeneous fraction of the plant cell wall, as their molecular structures involve multiple monosaccharide components, glycosidic linkages, and decoration patterns. The complete enzymatic hydrolysis of wood hemicelluloses into monosaccharides is therefore a complex biochemical process that requires the activities of multiple degradative enzymes with complementary activities tailored to the structural features of a particular substrate. Glucuronoarabinoxylan (GAX) is a major hemicellulose component in softwood, and its structural complexity requires more enzyme specificities to achieve complete hydrolysis compared to glucuronoxylans from hardwood and arabinoxylans from grasses.
Results: We report the characterisation of a recombinant α-glucuronidase (Agu115) from Schizophyllum commune capable of removing (4-O-methyl)-glucuronic acid ((Me)GlcA) residues from polymeric and oligomeric xylan. The enzyme is required for the complete deconstruction of spruce glucuronoarabinoxylan (GAX) and acts synergistically with other xylan-degrading enzymes, specifically a xylanase (Xyn10C), an α-l-arabinofuranosidase (AbfA), and a β-xylosidase (XynB). Each enzyme in this mixture showed varying degrees of potentiation by the other activities, likely due to increased physical access to their respective target monosaccharides. The exo-acting Agu115 and AbfA were unable to remove all of their respective target side chain decorations from GAX, but their specific activity was significantly boosted by the addition of the endo-Xyn10C xylanase. We demonstrate that the proposed enzymatic cocktail (Agu115 with AbfA, Xyn10C and XynB) achieved almost complete conversion of GAX to arabinofuranose (Araf), xylopyranose (Xylp), and MeGlcA monosaccharides. Addition of Agu115 to the enzymatic cocktail contributes specifically to 25 % of the conversion. However, traces of residual oligosaccharides resistant to this combination of enzymes were still present after deconstruction, due to steric hindrances to enzyme access to the substrate.
Conclusions: Our GH115 α-glucuronidase is capable of finely tailoring the molecular structure of softwood GAX, and contributes to the almost complete saccharification of GAX in synergy with other exo- and endo-xylan-acting enzymes. This has great relevance for the cost-efficient production of biofuels from softwood lignocellulose.
- Glycoside hydrolases (GH)
- Lignocellulosic biomass