Genomic Science Program
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Science | Biological and Environmental Research Program

2024 Abstracts

Study of the 4-Hydroxybenzoate Catabolic Pathway in White-Rot Fungi via Biochemical and Structural Enzyme Characterization


Eugene Kuatsjah1* ([email protected]), Alexa Schwartz1,2, Michael Zahn3,4, Konstantinos Tornesakis3, Zoe A. Kellermyer1, Paul A. Cox3, Morgan A. Ingraham1, Sean P. Woodworth1, Kelsey J. Ramirez1, Andrew J. Pickford3, Davinia Salvachúa1


1Renewable Resources and Enabling Sciences Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory; 2Advanced Energy Systems Graduate Program, Colorado School of Mines–Golden; 3Centre for Enzyme Innovation, School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Portsmouth–United Kingdom; 4Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Division for Structural Biochemistry, Hannover Medical School–Germany


The overall goal of this Early Career Award project is to test the hypothesis that white-rot fungi (WRF) can simultaneously depolymerize lignin extracellularly and catabolize depolymerization products intracellularly as carbon (C) and energy sources. The results from this project will lead to improved understanding of lignin utilization by WRF in nature and enable identification of promising fungal strains and enzymes for lignin catabolism and valorization.


White-rot fungi (WRF) are the most effective decomposers of lignin in nature. However, their ability to utilize aromatic compounds intermediate that enters central C metabolism. Additionally, researchers have solved the crystal structure of four of these enzymes and have analyzed their catalytic activity and structural features in comparison to homologous enzymes found in bacteria. Overall, this research significantly advances the understanding of the intracellular pathways involved in the breakdown of aromatic compounds within WRF and pinpoints key mechanistic disparities between fungal and bacterial systems. These insights are particularly valuable for the development of enzymatic or microbial biocatalysts aimed at producing high-value chemicals from aromatic compounds, whether in the context of lignin valorization or the utilization of aromatic waste products.


del Cerro, C., et al. 2021. “Intracellular Pathways for Lignin Catabolism in White-Rot Fungi,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, e2017381118.

Funding Information

This research is supported by the DOE Office of Science, BER program under the Early Career Award program. This work was authored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the DOE under contract no. DE-AC36- 08GO28308.