Converting plant biomass into useful products and biofuels inevitably runs up against a big problem: degrading cellulose and other cell wall polymers, which are, by design, tough nuts to crack. Plants need tough cell walls in order to stand tall and compete for sunlight, but the recalcitrance of these polymers complicates the task of breaking them down.
A study in mBio this week describes a “designer cellulosome” that brings together the enzymes for breaking down one cell wall polymer, xylose. The result is a quicker, more efficient transformation than the enzymes can accomplish when separate. This could make designer cellulosomes useful tools for creating commodity products and biofuels from plant biomass.