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Biotechnol Prog. 2010 Jan-Feb;26(1):127-33. doi: 10.1002/btpr.331.

Fast enzymatic saccharification of switchgrass after pretreatment with ionic liquids.

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  • 1Chemistry Program, Savannah State University, Savannah, GA 31404, USA.


The pretreatment of cellulose using ionic liquids (ILs) has been shown to be an effective method for improving the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose; this technique affords a fast and complete saccharification of cellulose into reducing sugars (Dadi et al., Biotechnol Bioeng. 2006; 95:904-910; Liu and Chen, Chinese Sci Bull. 2006; 51:2432-2436; Zhao et al., J Biotechnol. 2009; 139:47-54). Motivated by these advances, this study examines the effect of IL-pretreatment on the enzymatic hydrolysis of purified xylan (as a model system of hemicellulose) and switchgrass (as a real lignocellulose). The IL-pretreatment resulted in no improvement in the hydrolysis of xylan. The likely reason is that pure xylan has a low degree of polymerization (DP), and is readily biodegraded even without any pretreatment. However, in real cellulosic materials (such as switchgrass), xylan is entrapped within the cellulosic matrix, and cannot be conveniently accessed by enzymes. Our data demonstrate that the IL-pretreatment of switchgrass significantly improved the enzymatic saccharification of both cellulose (96% D-glucose yield in 24 h) and xylan (63% D-xylose yield in 24 h). The compositional analysis of switchgrass suggests a lower lignin content after IL-pretreatment. In addition, the infrared spectrum of regenerated switchgrass indicates a lower substrate crystallinity, whereas the enzyme adsorption isotherm further implies that the regenerated substrate is more accessible to enzymes. This study has further confirmed that IL-pretreatment is an effective tool in enhancing the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulosic biomass, and allowing a more complete saccharification.

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