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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2011 Jun;14(3):259-63. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2011.04.004. Epub 2011 Apr 29.

Microbial diversity of cellulose hydrolysis.

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Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics, 458 Biotechnology Building, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, United States.


Enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose by microorganisms is a key step in the global carbon cycle. Despite its abundance only a small percentage of microorganisms can degrade cellulose, probably because it is present in recalcitrant cell walls. There are at least five distinct mechanisms used by different microorganisms to degrade cellulose all of which involve cellulases. Cellulolytic organisms and cellulases are extremely diverse possibly because their natural substrates, plant cell walls, are very diverse. At this time the microbial ecology of cellulose degradation in any environment is still not clearly understood even though there is a great deal of information available about the bovine rumen. Two major problems that limit our understanding of this area are the vast diversity of organisms present in most cellulose degrading environments and the inability to culture most of them.

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