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Lignocellulose to biofuels


Research Team 4

Main objectives
The objective of the collaboration is to develop carbohydrate modules (CBMs) for more effective enzymatic conversion of lignocellulosic biomass, with particular focus on proteins belonging to the CBM33 family (sub-team A), and to identify and modify the key ligninolytic proteins (sub-team B).

The team (started 2007, with significant funding not becoming available before 2008)
• Principal investigators at UMN: (A) Prof. Claudia Schmidt-Dannert; (B) Prof. Simo Sarkanen and Assoc. Prof Steve Gantt
• Principal investigators at UMB: (A) Prof. Vincent Eijsink and PostDocs Gustav Vaaje-Kolstad & Sigrid Gåseidnes; (B) Carl Gunnar Fossdal (Skog og Landskap)
• Other team members USA: (A) Jake Vick (PostDoc); (B) Karen Tang, (postdoctoral associate), Sajeet Haridas (graduate student), Yi-ru Chen (postdoctoral associate)  
• Other team members Norway: (A) Svein Horn (PostDoc), Bjørge Westereng (PostDoc), Zarah Forsberg  (PhD student)

Research projects

Sub-team A

• The joint project “Characterization and directed evolution of carbohydrate-binding modules (CBMs) for biomass conversion” started January 2008. Funding from Norway: Appr. $ 50000, of which half is available for contributing to the UMN PostDoc. Plus “own contributions”, such as e.g. about 25 % of the time of Vaaje-Kolstad (PostDoc) and undergraduates. Funding from USA: PostDoc salary 2009 – 2011.
• Project applications aimed at expanding the research volume on this project and related projects have been or are to be submitted, both in Norway and Minneapolis. The volume of biofuel research at Ås has increased quite dramatically since 2007 and is now covering the complete spectrum from fundamental enzymology to process development.

• Since January 2010, UMB has a new Ph.D. student, Zarah Forsberg, who will work for four years (2010-2013) on the project “Characterization and directed evolution of carbohydrate-binding modules (CBMs) for biomass conversion”. She will do some of her research at UMN, in the Schmidt-Dannert laboratory.

Sub-team B

• “Characterization of Lignin Degrading/Modifying Enzymes,” NREL subcontract from DOE BioEnergy Science Center; Leader:  Simo Sarkanen; Duration: May 2008 to September 2012 (if continuations are granted).  Two graduate students and two postdoctoral research associates (half-time each) are involved.

• “Lignin Depolymerase with Enhanced Stability and Catalytic Activity”, IREE; co-PIs: Simo Sarkanen and Steve Gantt; Duration: until December 2009. One graduate student and one postdoctoral research associate are/have been involved.

• “Identification of Key Enzymes Involved in Lignin Degradation”, MAES; co-PIs: Steve Gantt, Simo Sarkanen and Yi-ru Chen.

• “Use of transcriptomics to identify lignin-degrading enzymes in fungi”, IREE; co-PIs: Steve Gantt, Carl Gunnar Fossdal and Simo Sarkanen. May 2009 to April 2010. One postdoctoral research associate is also involved.

Results & Status (follow link)

Industry partners
• In USA:
• In Norway: There are no companies directly involved in the joint project, but the UMB group is collaborating with various industries in its biofuel projects, several of which are closely linked to the joint UMB-UMN project. Among these companies are Borregaard, Statoil and Cambi.

Researcher exchange , incl. PostDoc and PhD
• From Norway to USA: Zarah Forsberg will do part of her PhD work at UMN, most likely in 2011 and/or 2012.
• From USA to Norway: The UMN PostDoc (Jake Vick) has already spent a month at UMB and is likely to do so once more in 2011.

Student exchange
• From Norway to USA: None (yet)
• From USA to Norway: None (yet)

Joint papers:

None (yet)

Scientific papers UMB (background papers)
• Vaaje-Kolstad, G., Horn, S.J., van Aalten, D.M.F., Synstad, B., Eijsink, V.G.H., 2005, The non-catalytic chitin-binding protein CBP21 from Serratia marcescens is essential for chitin degradation. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 280, 28492-28497.

• Horn, S.J., Sikorski, P, Cederkvist, J.B., Vaaje-Kolstad, G., Sørlie, M., Synstad, B., Vriend, G., Vårum, K.M., Eijsink, V.G.H., 2006, Costs and benefits of processivity in enzymatic degradation of recalcitrant polysaccharides. PNAS, 103, 18089-18094.
• Eijsink, V.G.H., Vaaje-Kolstad, G., Vårum, K.M., Horn, S.J. (2008) Towards new enzymes for biofuels: lessons from chitinase research. Trends Biotechnol. 26:228-235.

• Vaaje-Kolstad, G., Westereng, B., Horn, S.J., Liu, Z., Zhai, H., Sørlie, M., Eijsink. V.G.H. (2010) An oxidative enzyme boosting the enzymatic conversion of recalcitrant polysaccharides. Science 330:219-222.

Scientific papers UMN (background papers)
• Pisarchik, A., Petri, R., Schmidt-Dannert, C. (2007) Probing the structural plasticity of an archael primordial cobaltochelatase CbiX(S). Prot. End. Des. Sel. 20:257-65.

• Johnson, E.T., Schmidt-Dannert C. (2008) Light-energy conversion in engineered microorganisms. Trends Biotechnol. 26:682-689

• Johnson, E.T., Holtzapple, E., Schmidt-Dannert C. (2009) Combinatorial and evolutionary design of biosynthetic reaction sequences. Adv Enzymol Relat Areas Mol Biol. 76:121-50.

• Lopez-Gallego, F., Agger, S.A., Abate-Pella, D., Distefano, M.D., Schmidt-Dannert C. (2010)

Sesquiterpene synthases Cop4 and Cop6 from Coprinus cinereus: catalytic promiscuity and cyclization of farnesyl pyrophosphate geometric isomers. Chembiochem. 11:1093-1106.


Published: 10.04.08
Updated: 29.10.10
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Cooperation UMN-NMBU

Cooperation between University of Minnesota (UMN) and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). Contact persons:

Claudia Schmidt-Dannert

Professor, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics

College of Biological Sciences, St. Paul, UMN

Office Phone: 612/625-5782

Ragnhild Solheim

Research Director, UMB

Office Phone: +47 6496 6191