Submitted to: American Chemical Society Symposium Series
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 21, 1998
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Non-renewable energy resources, fossil fuels, are by far the most exploited form of energy today. Although great benefits to society are derived from the use of fossil fuels, potential problems, in the form of global warming, environmental pollution, and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, are associated with its use. Biomass has the potential to serve as a renewable substrate for the production of fuel ethanol and chemicals, but because of technical problems and cost considerations, this potential is not currently being realized. In this paper, recent advances in enzymology are described, as well as the general characteristics of the rate-limiting step in the enzymatic breakdown of biomass cellulose to the sugar, glucose. A detailed discussion is presented of the function, properties, regulation, and molecular biology of this specific yeast enzyme, as well as data that highlights the unique, desirable properties that the enzyme possesses for the production of fuel alcohol from biomass. This manuscript will be of value to scientists and manufacturers who are currently working, or are planning to work, on the enzymatic/microbiological conversion of cellulosic feedstock to added value products, such as fuel ethanol, acetic acid, etc.
Technical Abstract: Biomass has the potential to serve as a renewable substrate for the production of fuel ethanol and chemicals, but because of technical problems and cost considerations, this potential is not currently being realized. Our understanding of the organization and function of endo- and exocellulase has increased dramatically in the last few years. However, the rate-limiting step in the enzymatic saccharification of cellulose to glucose remains to be beta-glucosidase. This review presents a brief discussion of the structure of cellulose and the enzymology of cellulase. A general discussion of beta-glucosidases and a more detailed review of the function, properties, regulation, and molecular biology of yeast beta-glucosidases is presented.