Background: Non-ionic surfactants such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) can increase the glucose yield obtained from enzymatic saccharification of lignocellulosic substrates. Various explanations behind this effect include the ability of PEG to increase the stability of the cellulases, decrease non-productive cellulase adsorption to the substrate, and increase the desorption of enzymes from the substrate. Here, using lignin-free model substrates, we propose that PEG also alters the solvent properties, for example, water, leading the cellulases to increase hydrolysis yields.Results: The effect of PEG differs for the individual cellulases. During hydrolysis of Avicel and PASC with a processive monocomponent exo-cellulase cellobiohydrolase (CBH) I, the presence of PEG leads to an increase in the final glucose concentration, while PEG caused no change in glucose production with a non-processive endoglucanase (EG). Also, no effect of PEG was seen on the activity of beta-glucosidases. While PEG has a small effect on the thermostability of both cellulases, only the activity of CBH I increases with PEG. Using commercial enzyme mixtures, the hydrolysis yields increased with the addition of PEG. In parallel, we observed that the relaxation time of the hydrolysis liquid phase, as measured by LF-NMR, directly correlated with the final glucose yield. PEG was able to boost the glucose production even in highly concentrated solutions of up to 150 g/L of glucose.Conclusions: The hydrolysis boosting effect of PEG appears to be specific for CBH I. The mechanism could be due to an increase in the apparent activity of the enzyme on the substrate surface. The addition of PEG increases the relaxation time of the liquid-phase water, which from the data presented points towards a mechanism related to PEG-water interactions rather than PEG-protein or PEG-substrate interactions.
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- Avicel hydrolysis
- Enzymatic saccharification of cellulose
- Monocomponent cellulase hydrolysis
- PASC hydrolysis
- Water constraint