Extremophile-inspired strategies for enzymatic biomass saccharification

P. S. Miller, P. H. Blum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Domestic ethanol production in the USA relies on starch feedstocks using a first generation bioprocess. Enzymes that contribute to this industry remain of critical value in new and established markets as commodity additives and for in planta production. A transition to non-food feedstocks is both desirable and essential to enable larger scale production. This objective would relieve dependence on foreign oil and strengthen the national economy. Feedstocks derived from corn stover, wheat straw, perennial grasses and timber require pretreatment to increase the accessibility of the cellulosic and hemicellulosic substrates to commodity enzymes for saccharification, which is followed by fermentation-based conversion of monosaccharides to ethanol. Hot acid pretreatment is the industrial standard method used to achieve deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass. Therefore, enzymes that tolerate both acid and heat may contribute toward the improvement of lignocellulosic biomass processing. These enzymes are produced naturally by extremely thermophilic microbes, sometimes called extremophiles. This review summarizes information on enzymes from selected (acido)thermophiles that mediate saccharification of α-and β-linked carbohydrates of relevance to biomass processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1005-1015
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Technology
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Pyrococcus
  • Sulfolobus
  • Thermotoga
  • biomass
  • cellobiohydrolase
  • cellulose
  • endoglucanase
  • extremophile
  • glycosyl hydrolase
  • starch
  • thermophile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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