Recombinant Lignin-Degrading Enzymes to Digest Wood for Biofuel Production

EPA Grant Number: SU835083
Title: Recombinant Lignin-Degrading Enzymes to Digest Wood for Biofuel Production
Investigators: Williams, Myron N.V.
Current Investigators: Williams, Myron N.V. , Murray, Dejean , Rice, Demicca , Oatis, Etienette , Kiros, Filmon , Melnyczuk, John , Hines, Tara , Ross, Wendie
Institution: Clark Atlanta University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Air Quality , P3 Challenge Area - Chemical Safety , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


In order to meet the Renewable Fuels Standard demands for 30 billion gallons of biofuels by the end of 2022, new technologies for generation of cellulosic ethanol must be exploited. In the southeast of the United States, woody residues from pine tree harvesting and pulping are an appropriate feedstock, however lignin must be removed from the plant secondary cell wall in order to efficiently retrieve the cellulose. Towards creation of a more ecologically friendly method of rendering bioethanol from cellulosic waste, we will attempt to produce recombinant lignolytic enzymes for use with cellulases and xylanases in wood pulp bioreactors.


The project will engage undergraduate and graduate students in molecular cloning of genes for lignin-degrading enzymes based on a fungal source, expressing the recombinant proteins in E. coli and optimizing enzymatic activity. This will entail using literature analysis and bioinformatic methods to design genes for bacterial expression and structural modification of the protein, as well as measuring recombinant proteins and enzyme activity using standard molecular biological & biochemical methods. The Project Team of will be built using for-credit laboratory classes and in-house research internships, and will comprise undergraduate students from Chemistry and the Dual Degree Engineering Program (DDEP).

Expected Results:

We will generate bacterial expression systems to produce inexpensive, soluble, lignin-degrading enzymatic activity, and use the enzymes to enhance the yield of sugars and ethanol from wood pulp or other cellulosic wastes.

Contribution to Pollution Prevention or Control:

In addition to the general benefits of renewal fuels, the chemical lignin degradation processes used in the pulp and paper industry consume enormous amounts of water, and result in leaching of organochlorine compounds into the environment. The enzymatic delignification methods proposed here have to potential to substantially reduce the pollution in this industry.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report