In straw and other dried plant material, the three main polymers are cellulose, hemicellulose and
Researchers have studied the process by which woody insect microbes break down lignin in wheat straw, and figured out how they change this material.
Scientists have added 500 intestines of eachfour higher termite species to separate anaerobic bioreactors, and then wheat straw as the only carbon source. After 20 days, they compared the composition of the digested straw with the untreated straw. It was found that all gut microbiomes degrade lignin (up to 37%), although they more efficiently break down hemicellulose (51%) and cellulose (41%). The lignin remaining in the straw also changed - some of its subunits were oxidized.
The researchers suggested that effectivethe degradation of hemicelluloses by microbes could also increase the degradation of lignin crosslinked to polysaccharides. In future work, the scientists want to identify the microorganisms, enzymes and lignin degradation pathways responsible for these effects, which could be used in lignocellulose processing plants.
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