Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

Enzymatic cell wall modifications in plants to improve biomass utilization


The production of chemicals and energy carrier utilizing plant biomass is a promising alternative compared to the conventional use of fossil crude oil and coal. But these processes have to be optimized economically and ecologically. The aim of this project was the sustainable and efficient utilization of lignocellulose to create new plant materials for energy use and as basic commodities.

New hydrolytic and oxidative enzymes for cell wall degradation or modification were identified by knowledge based approaches. They were examined by phylogenetic analysis to refine previous findings. Novel fungal laccase genes with potentially high activity towards lignin compounds were identified and successfully expressed in Pichia pastoris. Two commercially available compounds were chosen as lignin model substrates. Laccase identified by homology search based on conserved motifs of high-redox-potential laccases, showed highest activity towards these substrates among investigated laccases. Two laccase were selected as appropriate candidates for delignification in Nicotiana tabacum and N. benthamiana. A set of different Trichoderma cellulases which should be capable of completely degrading cellulosic substrates was produced by transient expression in tobacco plants. This set consists of Endo-, Exoglucanases and a ß-glucosidase and exhibited a quite strong expression when targeted to the ER. Agroinfiltration of defined enzyme mixtures showed the successful expression of every single gene. First results with the filter paper assay showed synergistic effects by co-expression of all enzymes in comparison to single enzyme activities.

Production of fluorescent proteins by transient expression in plants
Production of fluorescent proteins by transient expression in plants

Participating Core Groups

Dr. Ulrich Commandeu
r | Prof. Rainer Fischer, Institute für Biologie VII, Molekulare Biotechnologie, RWTH Aachen University

Dr. Ulrich Commandeur

phone: +49-241-80-28131

Prof. Dr. Vlada B. Urlacher
, Institut für Biochemie, Heinrich-Heine-Universität
Prof. Dr. Björn Usadel, Institut für Biologie I, RWTH Aachen University
Dr. Markus Günl, Forschungszentrum Jülich, IBG-2: Pflanzenwissenschaften

Project duration
1.1.2014 - 31.12.2015

Funding budget
The total budget of EnZIP is € 504.000 €. EnZIP is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.


Damm, T, Commandeur, U, Fischer, R, Usadel, B and Klose, H (2016). Improving the utilization of lignocellulosic biomass by polysaccharide modification. Process Biochemistry 51(2): 288-296.

Klose, H, Gunl, M, Usadel, B, Fischer, R and Commandeur, U (2015). Cell wall modification in tobacco by differential targeting of recombinant endoglucanase from trichoderma reesei. BMC Plant Biol 15: 54.

Voiniciuc, C, Gunl, M, Schmidt, MH and Usadel, B (2015). Highly branched xylan made by irregular xylem14 and mucilage-related21 links mucilage to arabidopsis seeds. Plant Physiol 169(4): 2481-2495.

Voiniciuc, C, Schmidt, MH, Berger, A, Yang, B, Ebert, B, Scheller, HV, North, HM, Usadel, B and Gunl, M (2015). Mucilage-related10 produces galactoglucomannan that maintains pectin and cellulose architecture in arabidopsis seed mucilage. Plant Physiol 169(1): 403-420.

Voiniciuc, C, Zimmermann, E, Schmidt, MH, Gunl, M, Fu, L, North, HM and Usadel, B (2016). Extensive natural variation in arabidopsis seed mucilage structure. Front Plant Sci 7: 803.