Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS)

Degree Name

Interdisciplinary Studies

Department or School/College

Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Committee Chair

Michael Ceballos

Commitee Members

J.B. Alexander Ross, Klara Briknarova, Biswarup Mukhopadhyay


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Biochemistry | Biotechnology


Alternative petroleum-derived fuels, such as biofuels, is another form to decrease the dependence of non-renewable energy. The most promising alternative energy is cellulosic ethanol because of the abundance of cellulose and the overall lack of concern for the food-versus-fuel dilemma.

In order to produce ethanol from cellulosic materials, pretreatment is required to “open” the lignocellulosic matrix and make cellulose more susceptible to enzymatic degradation. Enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulose is an important area of research due to the absence of negative effects in downstream processes in comparison with acid hydrolysis. Both natural enzymes and engineered enzymes can be used in the process of ethanol production. Natural enzymes are found either individually or as a part of a complex known as cellulosome. Such complexes are the focus of many studies due to the efficiency in the degradation of cellulose. Research in enzymatic engineering is being done in order to mimic these natural systems. Engineered individual enzymes are also used to improve the properties of the enzymes found in nature. Enzymes can be engineered by rational design or directed evolution. Directed evolution is the most efficient technology, since it only requires the knowledge of protein sequences. However, this approach also possesses some limitations. A combination of both methods or a “semi-rational” approach is perhaps the best option to develop higher performance lignocellulolytic enzymes.

Many advances regarding engineering of lignocellulolytic enzymes have been made in the last past years. Further research, however, is required in the development of enzymes systems and enzyme industrial testing to establish cellulosic bioethanol as main substitute for petroleum-derived fuel energy.



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