Evaluating Lignins as Enzyme Substrates: Insights and Methodological Recommendations from a Study of Laccase-Catalyzed Lignin Polymerization

Mark A. West, Aynsley C. Hickson, Maija-Liisa Mattinen, Gareth Lloyd-Jones


Lignin preparations from kraft and sulfite pulping, steam explosion, and enzyme saccharification processes were assessed as substrates for lignin polymerization catalyzed by Trametes hirsuta laccase (ThL). Oxygen consumption associated with laccase catalyzed oxidation of the selected lignins was measured using a microplate-based oxygen assay. Laccase-induced changes in the molecular masses of the lignin polymers were assessed with aqueous-alkaline size exclusion chromatography (SEC) and changes in monomeric phenolics by reverse-phase high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Obtaining consistent results in the lignin-laccase assay system required careful pH monitoring and control. All lignin preparations were oxidized by ThL, the rate being highest for steam-exploded eucalypt and lowest for enzyme-saccharified lignin. Comparing lignins, higher lignin-laccase reactivity was correlated with lower lignin molecular mass and higher amounts of monomeric phenolics. Solubility was not an indicator of reactivity. Steam-exploded and lignosulfonate-treated pine preparations were further fractionated by ultrafiltration to determine what molecular mass fractions were the most reactive in ThL catalyzed oxidation. Both retentate (> 3kDa), and to a lesser degree permeate (< 3kDa), fractions were reactive.


Lignin; Laccase; Mediator; Polymerization; Ultrafiltration; Phenolic; Oxygen sensor

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