1 Aalborg University Copenhagen, The Faculty of Humanities, Aalborg University, VBN2 Section for Sustainable Biotechnology, Copenhagen, The Faculty of Engineering and Science, Aalborg University, VBN3 Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, The Faculty of Engineering and Science, Aalborg University, VBN4 The Faculty of Engineering and Science (ENG), Aalborg University, VBN
Elucidation of fungal biomass degradation is important for understanding the turnover of biological materials in nature and has important implications for industrial biomass conversion. In recent years there has been an increasing interest in elucidating the biological role of thermophilic fungi and in characterization of their industrially useful enzymes. In the present study we investigated the cellulolytic potential of 16 thermophilic fungi from the three ascomycete orders Sordariales, Eurotiales and Onygenales and from the zygomycete order Mucorales thus covering all fungal orders that include thermophiles. Thermophilic fungi are the only described eukaryotes that can grow at temperatures above 45 ºC. All 16 fungi were able to grow on crystalline cellulose but their secreted enzymes showed widely different cellulolytic activities, pH optima and thermostabilities. Interestingly, in contrast to previous reports, we found that some fungi such as Melanocarpus albomyces readily grew on crystalline cellulose and produced cellulases. These results indicate that there are large differences in the cellulolytic potential of different isolates of the same species. Furthermore, all the selected species were able to degrade cellulose but the differences in cellulolytic potential and thermostability of the secretome did not correlate to the taxonomic position. PCR amplification and sequencing of 22 cellulase genes from the fungi showed that the level of thermostability of the cellulose-degrading activity could not be inferred from the phylogenetic relationship of the cellulases.