Twenty years ago, microbiologist Barry Goodell, now a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues discovered a unique system that some microorganisms use to digest and recycle wood.
By Janet Lathrop
Three orders of “brown rot fungi” have now been identified that can break down biomass, but details of the mechanism were not known. Now, using several complementary research tools, Goodell and colleagues report new details of this unexpected mechanism at work, one that surprisingly does not involve enzymes, the usual accelerators of chemical reactions. Instead, Basidiomycota brown rot fungi, use a non-enzymatic, chelator-mediated biocatalysis method that is “very different than that used by any other microorganism studied,” he says.