What is it about?

This paper presents the novel facultative anaerobic bacterium, Tolumonas lignolytica BRL6-1, and uses physiological assays, transcriptomics, and proteomics to show how it uses iron to increase its capacity to grow with lignin under anoxic conditions.

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Why is it important?

Lignin is the most abundant natural phenolic biopolymer on earth, and comprises up to a quarter of plant biomass. Though fungi primarily degrade lignin in natural systems, they generally use reactive oxygen species under aerobic conditions. Reactive oxygen depolymerization breaks random bonds and creates unpredictable products. On the other hand, anaerobic bacterial degradation of lignin tends to be directed by specific enzymes targeting beta-aryl-ester or beta-aryl-ether bonds, creating reproducible degradation products. We have worked to characterize the forest bacteria responsible for anaerobic lignin degradation.


This work is part of a larger effort to develop bacterial systems for valorization of lignin. There will need to be many solutions to decarbonize our economy and address the main culprit of climate change: the burning of fossil fuels. Synthetic biofuels offer one such solution. These biofuels are generated through bioprocessing developed using metabolic engineering strategies and after a decade of development, are approaching the highly subsidized costs of petroleum.

Kristen DeAngelis
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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This page is a summary of: Lignin induced iron reduction by novel sp., Tolumonas lignolytic BRL6-1, PLoS ONE, September 2020, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0233823.
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