Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Vol.192, No.4, 1318-1330, 2020
Plant-Based Cellulase Assay Systems as Alternatives for Synthetic Substrates
Dissociative enzymes such as cellulases are greatly desired for a variety of applications in the food, fuel, and fiber industries. Cellulases and other cell wall-degrading enzymes are currently being engineered with improved traits for application in the breakdown of lignocellulosic biomass. Biochemical assays using these "designer" enzymes have traditionally been carried out using synthetic substrates such as crystalline bacterial microcellulose (BMCC). However, the use of synthetic substrates may not reflect the actual action of these cellulases on real plant biomass. We examined the potential of suspension cell walls from several plant species as possible alternatives for synthetic cellulose substrates. Suspension cells grow synchronously; hence, their cell walls are more uniform than those derived from mature plants. This work will help to establish a new assay system that is more genuine than using synthetic substrates. In addition to this, we have demonstrated that it is feasible to produce cellulases inexpensively and at high concentrations and activities in plants using a recombinant plant virus expression system. Our long-term goals are to use this system to develop tailored cocktails of cellulases that have been engineered to function optimally for specific tasks (i.e., the conversion of biomass into biofuel or the enhancement of nutrients available in livestock feed). The broad impact would be to provide a facile and economic system for generating industrial enzymes that offer green solutions to valorize biomass in industrialized communities and specifically in developing countries.