An enzyme in Shitake mushrooms is particularly efficient at breaking down dead wood into sugars. So scientists are working on an enhanced version of the enzyme to make the production of ethanol more efficient.
Called Xyn11A, the gene carries the instructions that the mushroom uses to make an enzyme known as xylanase. The researchers want to see if a ramped-up version of the gene could be put to work digesting rice hulls or other harvest leftovers.
If enzymes can do that quickly and efficiently in huge vats, or fermenters, at biorefineries, they could help make ethanol and other products a practical alternative to today’s petroleum-based fuels, for example. That’s according to Charles C. Lee, an ARS research chemist.