Lignin from hydrothermally pretreated grass biomass retards enzymatic cellulose degradation by acting as a physical barrier rather than by inducing nonproductive adsorption of enzymes

Demi T. Djajadi, Mads M. Jensen, Marlene Oliveira, Anders Jensen, Lisbeth G. Thygesen, Manuel Pinelo, Marianne Glasius, Henning Jørgensen, Anne S. Meyer*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Lignin is known to hinder efficient enzymatic conversion of lignocellulose in biorefining processes. In particular, nonproductive adsorption of cellulases onto lignin is considered a key mechanism to explain how lignin retards enzymatic cellulose conversion in extended reactions. Lignin-rich residues (LRRs) were prepared via extensive enzymatic cellulose degradation of corn stover (Zea mays subsp. mays L.), Miscanthus × giganteus stalks (MS) and wheat straw (Triticum aestivum L.) (WS) samples that each had been hydrothermally pretreated at three severity factors (log R0) of 3.65, 3.83 and 3.97. The LRRs had different residual carbohydrate levels-the highest in MS; the lowest in WS. The residual carbohydrate was not traceable at the surface of the LRRs particles by ATR-FTIR analysis. The chemical properties of the lignin in the LRRs varied across the three types of biomass, but monolignols composition was not affected by the severity factor. When pure cellulose was added to a mixture of LRRs and a commercial cellulolytic enzyme preparation, the rate and extent of glucose release were unaffected by the presence of LRRs regardless of biomass type and severity factor, despite adsorption of the enzymes to the LRRs. Since the surface of the LRRs particles were covered by lignin, the data suggest that the retardation of enzymatic cellulose degradation during extended reaction on lignocellulosic substrates is due to physical blockage of the access of enzymes to the cellulose caused by the gradual accumulation of lignin at the surface of the biomass particles rather than by nonproductive enzyme adsorption. The study suggests that lignin from hydrothermally pretreated grass biomass retards enzymatic cellulose degradation by acting as a physical barrier blocking the access of enzymes to cellulose rather than by inducing retardation through nonproductive adsorption of enzymes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number85
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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© The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creative ses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creat applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • Adsorption
  • Apparent surface abundance
  • Cellulases
  • Depolymerization
  • Enzymatic hydrolysis
  • Inhibition
  • Lignin
  • Physical barrier
  • S/G ratio
  • β-O-4 linkage

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