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Enzyme discovery and structure-function investigation of carbohydrate-active enzymes – new tools for biomass tailoring

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The plant cell wall is a highly complex structure, and the main constituent of wood as a material. Microorganisms can break down essentially all parts of the cell wall with time, and their enzymatic strategies can today be utilized thanks to the advances in molecular biology and biochemistry. The enzymes can be used as highly specific catalysts for remodeling/modification of both complex cell walls (fibers) or individual polysaccharides, for example removing specific side-chains, oxidizing side- or main chain sugars, or entirely degrading contaminants into easily removable molecules. There are still significant knowledge gaps regarding how the enzymes interact with the complex cell wall matrix on the molecular level, and detailed understanding is crucial to develop enzymes as novel tools for wood modifications. In this project, the aim is to identify and characterize novel carbohydrate-active enzymes, either from known enzyme families or previously undiscovered types, where enzymes acting on hemicelluloses (both main and side chains) and the covalent connections between lignin and carbohydrates in the cell wall will be prime targets here. New efficient enzymes will be used as tools for both polysaccharide tailoring and/or to facilitate separation of plant cell wall components.

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