First Photosynthetic Organism That Digests Cellulose

  • Author: ChemistryViews
  • Published: 25 November 2012
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Source / Publisher: Nature Communications/Nature Publishing Group
thumbnail image: First Photosynthetic Organism That Digests Cellulose

Cellulose is a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of β(1→4) linked D-glucose units. It is the structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants, many forms of algae, and the oomycetes.

Olaf Kruse, Bielefeld University, Germany, and colleagues found that the unicellular green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, when grown under CO2-limiting conditions, metabolizes cellulose in addition to doing photosynthesis. So far this has never been found for organisms doing photosynthesis. Cellulose assimilation has so far only been described for heterotrophic organisms that rely on photosynthetically active primary producers of organic compounds.
C. reinhardtii’s photoheterotrophic ability to utilize cellulose for growth in the absence of other carbon sources causes digestion of exogenous cellulose. This is followed by cellobiose uptake and assimilation.

Phototrophic microbes like C. reinhardtii may serve as biocatalysts for cellulosic biofuel production.

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