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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2003 Apr;27(1):3-16.

Thermomyces lanuginosus: properties of strains and their hemicellulases.

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Department of Biotechnology, Durban Institute of Technology, P.O. Box 1334, Durban 4000, South Africa.


The non-cellulolytic Thermomyces lanuginosus is a widespread and frequently isolated thermophilic fungus. Several strains of this fungus have been reported to produce high levels of cellulase-free beta-xylanase both in shake-flask and bioreactor cultivations but intraspecies variability in terms of beta-xylanase production is apparent. Furthermore all strains produce low extracellular levels of other hemicellulases involved in hemicellulose hydrolysis. Crude and purified hemicellulases from this fungus are stable at high temperatures in the range of 50-80 degrees C and over a broad pH range (3-12). Various strains are reported to produce a single xylanase with molecular masses varying between 23 and 29 kDa and pI values between 3.7 and 4.1. The gene encoding the T. lanuginosus xylanase has been cloned and sequenced and is shown to be a member of family 11 glycosyl hydrolases. The crystal structure of the xylanase indicates that the enzyme consists of two beta-sheets and one alpha-helix and forms a rigid complex with the three central sugars of xyloheptaose whereas the peripheral sugars might assume different configurations thereby allowing branched xylan chains to be accepted. The presence of an extra disulfide bridge between the beta-strand and the alpha-helix, as well as to an increase in the density of charged residues throughout the xylanase might contribute to the thermostability. The ability of T. lanuginosus to produce high levels of cellulase-free thermostable xylanase has made the fungus an attractive source of thermostable xylanase with potential as a bleach-boosting agent in the pulp and paper industry and as an additive in the baking industry.

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