Improved Alkaliphile Isolate for Lignocellulosic Biomass Conversion at High pH


Executive Summary


Biomass conversion to fermentable sugars has emerged as a preferred type of renewable energy source to supplant fossil fuels for many applications including fuels, chemical products, and biomaterials like plastics. Biomass derived form starch-based raw materials, however, competes with food markets and tends to be of higher cost to grow, transport, and extract.  The use of cellulose or hemicellulose is preferred as it is abundant and cost-effective as a starting material, but requires costly biomass-degrading enzymes (e.g. cellulases typically from Trichoderma reesi). Large quantities of enzymes are often needed to overcome the inhibitory effects of lignin during reactions in cellulose saccharification. MSU researchers have harnessed the enzymatic properties of an alkaliphile fungus that not only reduces a number of pre-processing steps but also counteracts lignin-based enzymatic inhibition.


Description of Technology


This MSU technology is a novel fungal isolate capable of degrading biomass in high pH environments. The sequenced genome of this Cladorrhinum bulbillosum isolate yielded major biomass-degrading enzymes with significant activity above pH 7. Crude culture filtrate shows higher relative activity than currently available commercially enzymatic mixtures. When compared to CBH1 from T. reesi, the C. bulbillosum major cellulase exhibited a stronger activity (17-fold K-cat difference) at higher pH.  Since cellulose saccharification is not inhibited by lignin at higher pH, this isolate and its enzymes offer a significant improvement to the biomass conversion process. Combination of this isolates enzymes with that of commercially available ones would also give a desirable broad pH activity range.


Key Benefits

  • Broader pH optimum for lignocellulosic biomass conversion reactions
  • Eliminates the requirement for precise pH control
  • Reduces microbial contamination, including ethanol fermentation contaminants of lactic-acid bacteria
  • Improved enzyme activity due to reduced nonproductive binding of enzyme to lignocellulose



  • Cellulase cocktail for biomass conversion to glucose or other products such as bioethanol


Patent Status: 


Under review


Licensing Rights Available:


Non-exclusive rights available


Inventors: Jonathan Walton, Bingyao Li, Dina Jabbour Kruger


Tech ID: TEC2018-0047


Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University