Putting the ‘Goo’ in glucose; how cow spit helps convert grass into sugar

cow.jpegConverting cellulose to glucose is not exactly the easiest thing in the world, but for some animals, such as the common cow (Bos bovis), it comes quite naturally. Enzymes encoded by the cow’s DNA, as well as genes derived from microbes that live within the cow, help to efficiently degrade the cellulose found in grass.

Being able to convert cellulose into glucose is of particular interest in the field of biofuel production as cellulose can be found everywhere (think about how much softwood waste is left when processing lumbar) making it a great starting material for production. Currently, research is attempting to develop efficient, and environmentally-considerate ways of going from cellulose to glucose to biofuel. So how does saliva play into all of this? This study examined the effectiveness of cattle saliva to degrade cellulose by comparing it to Tween-20, a frequently used additive to enhance cellulose degradation. Microcrystalline cellulose was used as the cellulose substrate and hay was used as the real biomass substrate. The researchers found that non-enzymatic proteins in the cattle saliva enhanced cellulase-catalyzed degradation of cellulose. The next step will be to explore what features of non-enzymatic proteins aid in cellulose degradation, hopefully bringing us one step closer to a safer and faster way of breaking down cellulose.

Summary written by: Abdullah Al-Khaledi

To read the full paper, please click the following link:

Enhancement of Cellulose Degradation by Cattle Saliva

Yasutaka Seki, Yukiko Kikuchi, Yoshihiro Kimura, Ryo Yoshimoto, Masatoshi Takahashi, Kenichi Aburai, Yoshihiro Kanai, Tatsushi Ruike, Kazuki Iwabata, Fumio Sugawara, Hideki Sakai, Masahiko Abe, Kengo Sakaguchi

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