Cellulomonas-BacteriaResearch has found that plant photosynthesis produces up to 1.5 1011 tons of dry plant material on earth every year. This huge amount of plant material is primarily composed of plant cell wall polymers of lignin, cellulose, hemicelluloses and pectin. The degradation of these enormous amounts of plant cell wall polymers is carried out by microorganisms, the most important being the aerobic Cellomonas Bacteria. This bacteria uses a series of exudents containing enzymes that are specially effective at breaking down cellulose walls. Cellulomonas fimi was one of the first bacteria to have it’s DNA sequence mapped. It therefore is one of the most researched bacteria. Breaking down cell walls is one of the most important phenomenons in fermentation and bacteria activity. Understanding more would help industries such as pulp and paper.

Berkeley Lab tests double-threat microorganisms that can tolerate alkali and break down cellulose

The only truly practical bio-fuels will be those made from abundant feedstock like switch-grass, wheat straw, and other woody plants, whose cell walls consist of lignocellulose. After pretreatment to remove or reduce the lignin, the sugary remains of cellulose and hemicellulose are fermented by microorganisms to yield the bio-fuel.

“Each additional step in the process adds to the cost,” says Michael Cohen, a visiting professor of biology at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of bio-fuel processing. “The species of bacteria we’re testing may be able to combine two important steps into one.”

Cohen found the unique strain of bacteria, which can tolerate high alkalinity and degrade cellulose at the same time, in a strange and isolated part of California called The Cedars, located inland from Timber Cove in the state’s Outer Coast Range. The site’s deep canyons and rocky serpentine barrens, all but invisible from the area’s few public roads, create a biological island that is home to living things rarely seen elsewhere. Eroding serpentine rock in The Cedars creates highly alkaline springs. Lignin in plant matter that falls into the springs is attacked by the alkalinity, while alkili-tolerant strains of Cellulomonas and other microorganisms break down the cellulose and process the sugars.