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Molecular and Biochemical Screening of Mangrove Sediments in Abu Dhabi for Biomass Degrading Enzymes

PI: Dr. Lina Yousef, , Assistant Professor – Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose (β-1,4 linked glucose polymer) to glucose followed by fermentation to ethanol promises to be a sustainable process for generating fuel. However, enzyme end-product inhibition of cellulases, largely due to slow acting β-glucosidases, limit the efficiency of the process. A solution for this problem is to identify highly active and substrate specific β-glucosidases that can quickly turnover accumulating substrate. Trichoderma reesei is currently the major industrial producer of cellulases and is considered the ‘champion’ in cellulase production among biomass-degrading fungi. Yet, low β-glucosidases activity in this organism is reported, and is identified as a problem in industry. Most of the work focused on isolating native halotolerant soilborne fungi and screening them for ß-glucosidase activity. This research enabled us to identify a number of native fungal isolates that appear to have ß-glucosidases that are thermostable and suitable for the deconstruction of industrially-relevant substrates under a wide range of conditions. This research will be the basis of future work involving enzyme characterization and developing novel cellulase formulations that are specifically geared for halophytic biomass deconstruction.