Lignin & Cellulose R&D and Technology US

Did Americans Find a Way to Make Money With Lignin?

Americans discover a new family of enzymes that can transform Lignin: family N of the cytochrome P450.

This discovery can improve the conversion of lignin into nylon, chemicals, plastics etc.

We only knew about Families A through M classes of the cytochrome P450s. The latest discovery introduces Family N. They newly discovered enzymes are involved in several human metabolic processes meaning they can be found in humans.

The discovery was made by Christopher Johnson, a molecular biologist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) National Bioenergy Center.

Johnson found a way to convert guiaicol (lignin) to another organic compound in a single step using the cytochrome P450s. He analysed how this was possible and discovered the Familly N. Family N enzymes can remove a methyl group from different substances. This is critical for the microbial conversion of lignin. The enzyme can also be engineered to be a specialist for a specific molecule.

christopher johnson nrel enzymes convert lignin bioplastics
Picture of Michael Crowley (left), Christopher Johnson, and Gregg Beckham